Websites tailored to young girls that encourage negative self-image, eating disorders and cold-blooded cruelty
Note to Readers: This article was originally published in 2011 on my site when these troubling trends first started. Unfortunately, these dangerous websites are still up, teens are flocking to them and parents are largely clueless and this blog is an update. We must get and stay educated. Please preserve this copyright-and note that I am the original author. Plagiarism is not appreciated! (Several sites have posted this and then used their own byline. Not cool).
Research is showing a clear and troubling trend in the mental health of our daughters. Eating disorders, stress, depression, smoking, binge drinking, a peer cruellty are steadily rising. Though the internet is certainly not the prime cause, it can contribute to the formation of our children’s attitudes and behaviors. It’s why every parent must stay educated and monitor their children’s online presence. These sites will harm our children physically, mentally or morally and because our tweens and teens are frequenting these sites alone I contend that are teaching them “self harm.”
Here is my pick of three troubling websites (one has since closed) that have absolutely no redeeming value to children’s well-being and character and may contribute to those troubling trends. They’re my nominees for the “Internet Hall of Shame.”
The Bimbo Game
This provocative web site encourages young girls to give their virtual character dolls breast implants and use diet pills for crash diets. Though the game has been around a few years, you may not be aware it exists so here’s what you need to know about the site.
It’s aptly called the “Miss Bimbo” Game and it’s quite popular among girls aged seven to seventeen years of age. The goal of the virtual game is for players to turn their naked virtual character doll into the “hottest, coolest, most famous bimbo in the whole world.” (I kid you not).
Players sign up (for free) and then earn “bimbo” dollars to spend making their doll the coolest bimbo. (Beware: many of these sites say the entry is free and then find ways to have players pay money for additional “perks.” Talk to your teen!)
Girls are told to “stop at nothing” to achieve that goal. And oh the things your kid can buy:
Breast implants for $11,500 bimbo dollars (for bigger “bimbo” breasts)
Bimbo attitudes for $2000 bimbo dollars
Diet pills for $100 bimbo dollars
You can also purchase sexy lingerie to take the doll to a nightclub as well as clothes, food and pets and even play the lottery!
A key aim of the game is for the user to constantly keep the character at her target weight (thus the need to purchase diet pills). But the ultimate prize is finding a billionaire boyfriend to be the doll’s “sugar daddy.” He’s the knight in shining armor who can bankroll her so she’ll have that endless gigantic expense account (probably for even biggest breast implants).
Just in case the player runs out of virtual bimbo dollars, there’s an easy solution. The girl just sends cell phone text messages at a pop of three dollars (this one in US currency) or uses PayPal to boost her account. Since I first reported the Bimbo Game, the site has clearly expanded. There is now even the Justin Bieber Baby Game. “Whose the Daddy?” the video taunts.
Outraged? Read on.
Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia Sites
The pro-Ana (as in pro-anorexia.. or referred to simply as “ana” or sometimes affectionately personified by anoerxics as a girl named Ana) and pro-Mia sites (as in pro-bulimia) promote the lifestyle of disorder orders. They also provide girls with “thinspiration” by posting photos of bony-thin fashion models.
Disturbing research finds that kids as young as ten are learning weight loss or purging techniques from these web sites.
A study at Stanford University found that 96 percent of young eating disorder patients admit they learn purging and weight-loss methods while logged on.
And once girls are on the site, oh the “useful” tips the learn: “Throw up in the shower—it covers up the sound.” “Use nail-growth polish so your nails won’t look so brittle.” “Fasting makes it easy to overcome bad habits and addictions.” Here are three pro-ana sites and sample of the golden bits of their advice they offer girls:
“Dying to Be Thin: A Pro-Ana Blog“
After a very stressful few weeks, and a very naughty weekend, I am feeling quote… (how shall we say) unqualified to fit into my skinny jeans this week…it’s time for a good old-fashiong FAST….Mostly water, maybe a little bit of VitaminWater, a sip or two of soymilk for breakfast….But no food. Who’s fasting with me? 30 hours food-free. Let’s do it! Think beautiful thoughts, girls! XOXO!
A directory that lists great sites such as: Ana’s Underground Grotto: (background information about anorexia and food, tips and tricks, quotes..). Anorexics.net (Information about eating disorders, recipes, diets and diet bill reviews). Beautiful Perfection (Thinspiration, tips, pictures)… and the directory goes on and on.
“Ana’s Thinspiration: Thin is Beautiful“
This site claims to have the largest selection in the world of diet, exercise, and celebrity and supermodel weight loss. I periodically check the site and it clearly is being maintained and updated. Recent advice from their list of “40 reasons not to eat”:
“You will be FAT if you eat today. Just put it off one more day.
“You don’t NEED food.”
“People will remember you as the ‘beautiful thin one.’
“Guys will be able to pick you up without struggling”
Formspring looked and sounded tame enough even advertising to teens that it “lets you share personal and interesting responses with people you know.” The site allowed the user to open an account and then lets an anonymous audience–usually the teen’s peers–communicate with vicious–and I do mean vicious–openness. It even appeared to be “consensual” (after all, the Formspring motto is “Respond, have fun and get to know friends better”), but do not be deceived. The site took cyber-attacks up to new heights and was just another venue for teens to transmit cruelty.
Rachel J. Simmons, the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence, works internationally to address bullying and empower girls and loudly voices her concerns. Here is part of Rachel’s warnings from her blog,”What Every Parent Should Know About Formspring”:
“Formspring is the latest cyberscourage for teens….There is zero, and I mean zero, value in this website and no girl or boy should spend a minute on it. Formspring creates unnecessary emotional risks. It legitimizes cybercruelty and divorces kids from responsibility for their words. You can pretty much file Formspring along with wouldn’t-it-be-fun-to-stand-on the-railroad-tracks-and-jump-right-before-the-train-comes and I’m-sure-no-one-will-notice-if-I-just-pocket-this-one-mascara.”
Most parents were not even aware of this site. Another blog lists the dangers:
“Formspring gained some notoriety back in 2010 when it became the focus of teenage bullies that would post insults and threats to other adolescents. Critics of the service pointed to the fact that the users could post these threats anonymously, thereby enabling them to be much more severe than if their profiles were identifiable. The offensive messages were even linked to a Long Island teenager’s suicide in March 2010.” -Dan Seifert
Know that what the site did was really encourage cold-blooded cruelty and the diminishment of social responsibility and empathy.
The good news is that Formspring closed down on March 31st. (Are you cheering with me?) The CEO said that the costs were too high to maintain. I mention Formspring only because parents need to be aware of the darker side of the Internet. If this site was “not successful” 30 million users somehow were attracted to it. It’s a guarantee that if this site closed, another will replace it. Keep educated. Track the sites your teen is viewing.
What Parents Can and Must Do
My first suggestion: SAY NO to these sites. Block those that you can. Put post-it notes on your computer that list sites that are never-ever to be viewed (and set a clear consequence).
If you haven’t sat down with your kids and had “the media talk” and reviewed your computer standards, you don’t have a moment to lose. If you haven’t turned on those filters or figured out how to track your child’s visits in cyberspace, get cracking. And if you haven’t taught your kids the “Walk By Rule,” plop them on the couch tonight and explain:
“The Walk By Rule means if I ever walk by our computer — which will only be kept in a central place that I can see and touch– and notice you covering up the screen and shutting down a window, I will pull the plug. ASAP. No questions asked.”
Also, check your credit card statements. Most of these sites have a place where teens can “donate” (DONATE?”) to the site or receive more information via credit card.
Meanwhile, stay vigilant, tune up your values, monitor those computers, hug your kids—and stay involved (as in very involved) in their lives.
And stress, stress, and stress again: “Who you are inside is what matters.”
Outraged? I hope so. If we weren’t concerned enough about our daughters’ emotional well being, these sites should take us to the blood boiling level.
These are just three of many toxic sites that I’m nominating for the “Internet Hall of Shame.” What are yours?
I am an educational psychologist, parenting expert, TODAY show contributor and author of 22 books including The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. You can also refer to my daily blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Check for ongoing parenting solutions and late-breaking news and research about child development.
RESOURCES for This Blog:
The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, by Michele Borba Chapter: “Eating Disorders”
S. Song, “Starvation on the Web,” Time, Jul. 11, 2005.
A. Voiland, “Teens Health: Web Sites That Promote Eating Disorders, U.S. News & World Report, De. 6, 2006 [http:health.usnews.com/usnews/health/articles/061206/6healt.anorexia_print.htm
The creator of “Miss Bimbo” claims it is “harmless fun…just reflecting real life.” I’d venture to say these guys aren’t the fathers of daughters.