Parents warned as pro-anorexia videos run rife on Tik Tok
The proliferation of pro-anorexia videos on popular video sharing app Tik Tok risks creating a new generation of girls with eating disorders, teen health experts have warned.
The Butterfly Foundation said "loopholes" on the platform had allowed content promoting consuming laxatives to circulate on the platform, which could potentially trigger an eating disorder in young teens.
Despite a Tik Tok spokeswoman saying such content was removed from the social media platform, The Saturday Telegraph found numerous examples of posts which experts say glamorise anorexia and extreme dieting.
The app used by 1.4 million Australians every month was founded by Chinese billionaire Zhang Yiming and has previously been criticised for censoring content relating to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and the recent Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.
The Butterfly Foundation's Head of Communications and Engagement Melissa Wilton said Tik Tok allowed damaging pro-anorexia content to go unmoderated.
"Alarmingly, the videos portray young people engaging in dangerous restrictive dieting behaviours to lose excessive amounts of weight which in theory could be demonstrative of an eating disorder," she said.
"Unfortunately the issue of exposure to harmful content such as this is heightened by the fact that it appears that Tik Tok, unlike other social media platforms, is relatively unmoderated," she said.
"Although Tik Tok has brought in some 'help' functions and banned searching certain hashtags, (we have) identified loopholes that allow young people to access potentially harmful eating disorder content."
In one video seen by The Saturday Telegraph, a user shows her daily "food diary" in which she measures her waist, arms, thighs and chest daily and contemplates laxatives.
"Falling back into old habits but oh well," the post said.
Teen author and educator Dannielle Miller said other posts which appeared to promote health and fitness could be a Trojan horse for extreme dieting.
"What is being offered is rarely about strength and agility and good health … it is often usually about a particular ascetic which can be achieved usually through fasting, or diet teas, or purging, that is where it is really problematic and dangerous," she said.
"You go in thinking it is going to be all fun dance routines and harmless frivolity but underneath that there can be some more dangerous messages we need to be aware of."
The Federal Government's eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant urged parents to talk to their children about messages which they encountered online.
"Now is the time to have a conversation with your kids about online safety, to help them develop critical thinking and the ability to make good online choices," she said.
"Parents and carers can find plenty of specific information on Tik Tok and other apps popular with children by visiting our online safety hub at esafety.gov.au."
A spokeswoman for Tik Tok said content that supported or encouraged eating disorders contravened their community guidelines and would be removed.
"We care deeply about the complex and multifaceted issue of eating disorders, and are focused on expanding our partnerships and building upon our product, policies, and protective measures to provide additional in-app resources for this community," she said.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing an eating disorder or body image concerns, reach out for support. Butterfly Foundation National Helpline: 1800 33 4673.
Originally published as Parents warned as pro-anorexia videos run rife on Tik Tok