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Prof. Latzer, director of Rambam Hospital’s Clinic for Eating Dysfunctions in Haifa University


February 23, 2011

There is a direct connection between Facebook and eating disorders. Prof. Yael Latzer, Director of Rambam’s Clinic for Eating Dysfunctions, recently participated in research that concluded that young women exposed heavily to the social networking tool, as well as to fashion and music sites, were susceptible to anorexia nervosa and bulimia

Prof. Latzer, director of Rambam Hospital’s Clinic for Eating Dysfunctions and two fellow researchers found a direct correlation between media exposure, particularly to Facebook, and eating dysfunctions. The research looked at 248 Jewish girls, between the ages of 12 to 19.23% of whom were on Facebook between two to three hours daily, 25% between three to four hours, 17.5% up to four hours, and 13.5% for five hours or more a day.  The girls were asked about their habits regarding television, Internet and magazines, and were asked about their views on thinness, bulimia, body image, eating in general and on self-empowerment.

The researchers found a strong connection between Facebook hours and frequency of eating disorders. Girls who spent more time on Facebook showed an increased frequency of bulimia and dieting, and a greater stress on thinness. In addition, their body image and associations with eating were more negative than those for girls who spent less time on the social networking site. Exposure to fashion and music programs displayed similar results, but only for some of the criteria that characterize eating dysfunctions.

The research also showed a negative connection between the girls’ level of self control and eating disturbances. That is to say, the higher their sense of independence, the lower their risk of developing an eating problem and the more positive their body image.

Another major finding of the research pointed out the importance of parental involvement. It showed that girls whose parents were involved in their ‘surfing’ activities had greater self- and body images than those whose parents took a less active role.

 “We don’t say you should make the Internet off limits to your daughters, but you should guide and supervise them,” says Prof.  Latzer. “Adolescents want to feel they are individuals, separate from their parents, and they want privacy. These are their rights. At the same time, parents must be aware of what’s happening with their children, must know who they’re writing to, and what others are writing them.” Besides its various threats to physical well-being, adds Prof. Latzer, “Facebook is a big waste of time. Why shouldn’t our kids be playing sports outside, or drawing or reading instead?”

 Perhaps these sentiments – if not Prof. Latzer’s results – recently prompted US First Lady Michelle Obama to make an important decision:  as of last week, Mrs Obama has forbidden the presidential daughters, Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9, from entering Facebook. 

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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