New research from Queensland, Australia, shows that the number of children ages 13 or under being diagnosed with eating disorders at community mental health services has quadrupled in the past five years. In light of this disturbing trend, experts are warning parents to limit child exposure to TV weight loss shows and dieting paraphernalia.
Julie Parker, general manager of the Butterfly Foundation, which supports people with eating disorders, commented on the "dangerous" and confusing nature of weight loss shows for children: "We constantly have a dieting and thin culture in front of us, and children and young people are exposed like never before."
According to Parker, very young children in particular should not be exposed to extreme weight loss programs because they tend to present "a very warped and unrealistic view of exercise, dieting and health."
Bruce McDermott, University of Queensland professor of child and adolescent psychiatry, called the increase in diagnoses a "robust trend," but stressed that no one really knows the cause. "There are influences on childhood in the last 10 years that have never been there before," he said. "The prevalence of technology in the bedroom - MSN, YouTube, Internet and TV - fairly relentlessly gives a message that thin is good, thin is beautiful and thin is desirable."
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