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By Simon Munk
Julie Lynn Evans, ‘one of the [UK’s] foremost child psychotherapists’, says it can be. She is ‘convinced that the internet… makes any problem more urgent, more dramatic’ and that has resulted directly in a worsening in the behaviour of teens. Her claims sparked a huge debateon our Linkedin group. Now Simon Munk, Quib.ly contributor, responds:
With all due respect to Ms Lynn Evans, the statistics tell a very different story.
The most worrying and detailed issue she raises is of ‘pro-anorexia’ websites and forums. These are ‘teaching people how to do it and… making it OK,’ says Lynn Evans. ‘Anorexia is the greatest cause of death of young girls.’ Except, it isn’t.
According to the NHS’ Atlas Of Risk young girls in the UK, where Lynn Evans is based, are more likely to die of cancer, transport incidents, nervous system disorders, respiratory disorders, infections and murder before anything likely to be linked to an eating disorder. In other words, teach your daughter how to cross the road safely before banning her from any forums.
Anorexia also hasn’t spiked with the arrival of social media and chat forums. NHS hospital admissions for eating disorders only rose 58% between 2011/12 and 1998/99 (Facebook launched in 2004), and the NHS attributes the growth to ‘improvements in data quality and coverage’. A 1998 US study found 40 years of rising incidence of anorexia were mostly down to women in their 20s and 30s, not teenagers.
As to teens being more suicidal because of the internet? US statistics for suicides per 100,000 of 15-24 year old show 4.5 in 1950, 12.3 in 1980 and 10 in 2005 – in other words, teen suicide rates rose before the arrival of the internet. And teen suicide rates are flat from 2000 to 2010. Turns out, you should worry more about alcohol availability than internet use.
Of course the internet can be a dark and dangerous place. But the bad stuff remains rare.