TikTok: Fears videos may ‘trigger eating disorders’

Social media app TikTok could encourage unhealthy relationships with food and trigger people who have suffered eating disorders, campaigners have said.

The video app is one of the most popular in the world, with more than 800m users – 41% of those users between the age of 16 and 24.

But there are fears some of the content glamorises eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

TikTok said the safety and wellbeing of users was its top priority.

It said it encouraged people to report any inappropriate content with anything seeking to glorify or promote eating disorders violating its guidelines.

But eating disorder charity Beat said that, while it supports the action TikTok has taken to reduce the spread of such content, there are still some harmful videos on the app.

“We’d advocate for real people to actually search the platform and to highlight and take down the harmful content,” Tom Quinn, director of external affairs, said.

A 19-year-old woman from Builth Wells, who did not wish to be named, said she spends about 40% of her time on the app viewing weight-loss related content.

“Last night, I was on TikTok and I ended up feeling so negative about myself I paid £85 for a gym set and personalised fitness plan,” she said.

“My attitude towards my body was so negative after, I thought that could be the only thing to change it.

“For some people it may be really positive and inspire them to have their own weight loss journey, but for me and a lot of my friends it’s a negative issue which at times makes me want to delete the app altogether.”

“Pro-ana” is a term used to describe content that promotes dangerous behaviours and mindsets related to the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, and “pro-mia” promotes bulimia.

It originally began in the dark web but eventually made its way to social media platforms.

Although TikTok says it uses a combination of techniques to remove content, campaigners say the app is slow in dealing with it.

Because it allows anyone to create and publish content, people can promote whatever dietary or weight-loss advice they like.

And the way the algorithm of the app works means people do not have to actively search for that content – it can appear as suggested content for that user.

This means if someone curiously watches a “pro-ana” video, they are then supplied with more weight- loss tips and “thinspo” (content to inspire a person to lose weight).

James Downs, an eating disorder and mental health campaigner, said: “I think that the lack of transparency around how content is fed to different people through the app makes TikTok especially threatening, as none of us can be sure what content we will see and whether it will be safe for our mental wellbeing.

“One of the things that worries me most about TikTok is how the environment it provides is not guaranteed to be a safe one.

“We would never send young people into physical environments that might pose them with threats to their wellbeing, so why would we accept dangers in our digital environments either?”

source: bbc

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