A 13-year-old girl and her mother were referred to my office by their pediatrician. In his referral, he said that this child was significantly underweight and he had serious concerns about an eating disorder. After a few minutes of talking with this teen, I learned that her idol, the person she admired most and wanted to be just like, was a 60 pound 23-year-old YouTube star.
Eugenia Cooney is a fashion vlogger (video blogger) and has 1,304,327 followers on YouTube, most of whom are tween and teen girls. This is not the only teen or tween I have seen who idolizes Eugenia, but she certainly seemed to be the most heavily influenced by this star then I had seen before.
If you are unfamiliar with Eugenia Cooney, then you probably don’t have a tween or teen daughter. She seems like a sweet young adult but she is very skinny, and by very, I mean….
Apparently, Eugenia Cooney is causing quite the controversy. So much controversy if fact, that there was a petition circulating online to try and get YouTube to remove her for from the site for being too skinny. The creator of the petition said that Cooney “has a serious medical condition and needs to seek help” and “she knows that she’s influencing young teenage girls into thinking being 60 lbs. is normal. It’s most definitely not.”
The National Eating Disorders Association has the following statistics posted to its website;
- Anorexia is the third most common chronic disease among young people, after asthma and type 1 diabetes.
- Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 with anorexia have 10 times the risk of dying compared to their same-aged peers.
- Males represent 25% of individuals with anorexia nervosa, and they are at a higher risk of dying, in part due to the fact that they are often diagnosed later since many people assume males don’t have eating disorders.
- Subclinical eating disordered behaviors (including binge eating, purging, laxative abuse, and fasting for weight loss) are nearly as common among males as they are among females.
- An ongoing study in Minnesota has found incidence of anorexia increasing over the last 50 years only in females aged 15 to 24. Incidence remained stable in other age groups and in males.
- Eating disorder symptoms are beginning earlier in both males and females, which agrees with both formal research and clinical reports.
Now, whether this young woman has an eating disorder or not should be left up to her, her doctor, and her family, but the story does prove to be a helpful reminder for parents as to just how impressionable tweens and teens are. Kids today have so many competing influences, they have the entire world of cyberspace and all that is in it, their peers, other adults, and most importantly, their parents. It is impossible for parents to be the loudest influence on their children if they don’t know what they are competing with. Knowing who your child admires, who they are obsessed with online, is essential if you want to be able to counter some of the messages that can warp a child’s perception of what is normal and what is not.
How can you know that as a parent without spying on your child’s device or without scrolling through their browser history the instant they put down their phone?
The answer is simple, alerts. Real-time alerts sent directly to a parent’s smartphone about any of the things that are of concern today. Alerts about things like eating disorders, cyberbullying, drugs, and sex, sent straight to your phone, which gives you the parenting moment you need.
Parenting today has shifted and smarter parents are using Social Judo. For those that want to reclaim some of the lost opportunity to be the biggest influence in their child’s life, Social Judo is the tool to let you do just that.
Andrea Difilippo a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, nationally recognized parenting expert and Chief Parenting Officer with Social Judo.