YouTube Changes Rules for Eating Disorder Videos: Here’s Some Context
YouTube is updating its rules for content involving eating disorders or behaviors that may inspire eating disorders, the company announced Tuesday.
The Google-owned video streaming site already has community guidelines in place that prohibit content that “glorifies or promotes” eating disorders, YouTube Health director Dr. Garth Graham wrote in a blog post. . But in the coming weeks, additional guidelines will be added to prohibit content containing “imitable” behavior that might inspire people at risk of developing an eating disorder to copy, Graham said.
Examples of this will include content that shows severe calorie restriction or purging. Bullying based on weight in relation to eating disorders will also be prohibited, according to the message.
Additionally, YouTube will put age restrictions in place on certain content that may be educational for some viewers, but not equally valuable for children and teens. YouTube says this means you won’t be able to view related content if you’re signed out of your account or if the video is embedded on another website.
The guidelines “will take some time to fully fall into place,” Graham said. It also doesn’t mean that all videos featuring an eating disorder or dieting topic will be banned. Videos that meet the site’s rules for educational, documentary, scientific and artistic content will be allowed. YouTube is also adding crisis resource panels to some videos.
“Context will be key when it comes to this often nuanced content,” Graham said.
The content that viewers are exposed to in the media can be one of the cultural or social factors that can make a person more susceptible to developing disordered eating habits, especially in children and adolescents. Tech companies like Instagram and Meta have announced tools or measures to limit certain content for young people, but some say that’s not enough to combat the availability of media that can tip the scales on whether someone develops disordered eating habits.
Eating Disorders and Media Consumption
An eating disorder is a mental health problem that disrupts the way a person eats to the point that it interferes with their daily life or becomes a threat to their health. Common types include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating. Eating disorders can be described as a collection of unhealthy behaviors around food that may involve restricting food or obsessing over it, but not to the diagnostic extent of an eating disorder.
YouTube says it worked with experts in the eating disorder field, including the National Eating Disorder Association, to develop the new guidelines and help inform what counts as behavior that can cause eating disorders. power and be deleted.
Erin Parks, clinical psychologist and co-founder of online eating disorder treatment company Equip, explained in an email that because we live in a society that values thinness and “promotes the belief that individuals have more control over their health than the research suggests,” it’s understandable that a viewer might sometimes mirror the behavior of one of the many diet videos. However, Parks added, dieting is “the most common behavior” that can cause a person to develop an eating disorder. And the exact risk depends on the person.
“People who already have cognitive distortions around their body and people who have cognitive distortions around health are particularly susceptible to developing an eating disorder,” Parks said. Cognitive distortions are (usually negative) thoughts or feelings about yourself that may not be based in reality.
Learn more: The Dark Side of What I Eat in a Day Videos
The pandemic has created a perfect storm for eating disorders
During the COVID-19 pandemic, eating disorder symptoms have worsened for many people and more people have been treated for eating disorders. It’s no coincidence, according to Parks.
“During the pandemic, children weren’t physically in school and many were spending hours on social media consuming unrealistic imagery that wasn’t balanced by seeing people in real life,” said said Parks. “People come in a variety of ages, shapes, sizes, etc.” She added that it’s prolonged exposure to the content – hours versus minutes – that can amplify its impact.
“While limiting content is a good start, limiting time spent on the platform would likely have an even bigger impact,” Parks noted.
What content should we watch instead?
YouTube’s new guidelines for eating disorder content will be rolling out “in the coming weeks,” so as the company irons them out, it may become clearer what kinds of diet videos, in particular, may be age restricted or waived. In general, YouTube claims to enforce community guidelines through a combination of human review and machine learning.
If you’re the parent of a child or teen looking to supplement your child’s screen time with content that can promote a healthy relationship with food, Parks suggests content that “highlights and celebrates the many purposes of food – to support and energize, to socialize, to embrace culture and to comfort one another.” Also, avoid a YouTube list of fitness influencers with a singular body type and lean into content from people of different ages and body types.
“Most importantly, I encourage everyone to step off a screen and into real life,” Parks said.
Learn more: Dietitians want you to stop dieting. here’s why
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