University Campus Suffolk (UCS) has been awarded funding by the Nominet Trust to research pro-Anorexia websites. In association with eating disorder charity Beat and Childnet International, UCS is undertaking a 6 month study which aims to improve our knowledge and understanding of young people’s experiences of pro-anorexia (Pro-Ana) websites and online communities.
The research 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.
Dr. Emma Bond, a senior lecturer in the School of Applied Social Sciences at UCS leading the research, said: “There are increasing concerns over the number and availability of Pro-Anorexia sites on the Internet yet little is known about why people use them, what they use them for and whether or not they are contributing to either the anorexic condition or the phenomenon. We do know 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 research will examine how young people use the sites for tips and advice, support and other information as an ‘embodied’ social space. The relationship between users’ perceptions of risk and self-identity and the online environments will be examined in order to gain knowledge and understanding of the range, uses and content of these sites.
The EU Kids online report published in September 2011 highlighted that 21% of 11-16 year olds in their research have been exposed to one or more types of potentially harmful user generated content: hate (12%), pro-anorexia (10%); self-harm (7%), drug-taking (7%) and/or suicide (5%). Little is known though about the sites themselves and the nature and extent of the risk or harm they present to young people.