Vulnerable young people
According to Mind, 1 in every 100 women aged between 15 and 30 in the UK suffers from anorexia. And recent reports show that some girls as young as five years old have weight concerns and think about going on a diet.
Now a new research project is aiming to improve knowledge and understanding of the risks presented by the increasing number of pro-anorexia (pro-ana) websites and online communities available on the internet.
Contributing to the condition?
Virtually Anorexic – Where’s the Harm? is a project led by Dr Emma Bond, Senior Lecturer at University College Suffolk.
The exploratory study will look to examine why people use the growing number of pro-ana sites, what they use them for and whether or not these online resources are contributing to either the anorexic condition or the phenomenon.
It also aims to raise awareness of the potential risks to vulnerable young people of using pro-ana sites through wide-ranging dissemination and discussion with academics, policymakers and practitioners.
All about identity
It is known that young people use new media technologies for both risk management and risk-taking behaviours – to achieve identity as individuals and as members of cultural groups in both offline and online environments.
The Virtually Anorexic project will consider perceptions of risk from a variety of perspectives and notions of self-identity in relation to pro-ana online environments. The research will examine how young people use the sites for tips and advice, support and other information and as an ‘embodied’ social space. It will also detail the range, uses and content of these sites, including the availability of photographs, images and video.
The findings will then be considered in relation to existing literature on anorexia, young people and online environments in order to consider an ethical research framework for a more in-depth participant-centred virtual scientific evaluation of pro-ana sites and online environments.