20% of girls visiting pro-anorexia sites aged 6 to 11
Despite social media sites' attempts to crack down on pro-anorexia images and blogs, more than 500 000 predominately teenage girls visit pro-anorexia websites every year.
A new report released this week also finds that one in five girls who have visited "thinspiration" sites are between the ages of six and 11.
Dr Emma Bond at the University Campus Suffolk in the UK estimates that there are between 400 to 500 eating disorder sites, some of them claim 2 600 members, talking about 1 580 topics in different chat rooms across 15 000 posts.
Pro-anorexia websites, also known as "pro-ana" sites, offer instructions, inspiration, and tips for an anorexic and/or bulimic lifestyle. Many sites feature "thinspiration," or photographs or video montages featuring slender or excessively thin models or celebrities.
Others feature tips on dieting, with the recommended calorie intake of around 400 to 500 calories per day; hiding symptoms of anorexia and bulimia from friends and family; or finding an "anabuddy" for support and advice.
"Eating disorders are not going away, if anything they are becoming more common," says Bond. "We need to alert people to the dangers of harmful content on the Internet."
She adds: "Everyone needs to understand better the risks online and the harm that eating disorders can do to young people."
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