Parenting alert: Websites tailored to young girls that encourage negative self-image, eating disorders and cold-blooded cruelty
Research is showing a clear and troubling trend in the mental health of our daughters. Eating disorders, stress, depression, smoking, binge drinking, and peer cruelty 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. Here is my pick of three troubling websites 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 website 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.
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. Outraged? Read on.
Formspring looks and sounds tame enough even advertising to teens that it “lets you share personal and interesting responses with people you know.” The site allows the user to open an account and then let's an anonymous audience–usually the teen’s peers–communicate with vicious–and I do mean vicious–openness. It even appears 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 takes cyber-attacks up to new heights and can be 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 are not aware of this site. So get educated. Know that what it really encourages is cold-blooded cruelty and the diminishment of social responsibility and empathy. Say no!
Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia Sites
The pro-Ana (as in pro-anorexia.. or referred to simply as “ana” or sometimes affectionately personified by anorexics as a girl named Ana) and pro-Mia sites (as in pro-bulimia) promote the lifestyle of eating disorders. 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 websites.
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 they 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:
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-fashion 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.
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”
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?
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.
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.”
Right??? This is no laughing matter.
The UK version started in 2007. The French version (“Ma Bimbo”) attracted 1.2 million players in a few months. But watch out: I’m sure it will arrive on our shores via cyberspace in no time. Don’t hold your breath.
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.”