My name is Mike. My daughter developed anorexia at 9 1/2 years old after seeing a program on NICKELODEON produced, written and hosted by Linda Ellerbee called "The Body Trap". This program first aired on May 29, 1996 at 8:00p.m.. My little girl had the grave misfortune of witnessing it on June 2, 1996 at 8:00p.m. It came on without warning following the cartoon my three little ones were watching. My wife and I were only a few feet away cleaning up after dinner. Our 9 1/2 year old called out to my wife to come look at the T.V., and tell her what was wrong with the girl that looked like a skeleton. My wife rushed in and questioned what the kids were watching. They told her it was just NICKELODEON. The program ended, and little did we know but normal life as we had known it ended also. Confused and irritated at why a program of this nature should be indiscriminately shotgun blasted at whatever age children happen to be watching NICKELODEON (a children's network), my wife did her best to try to explain to our 9 1/2 year old, our 7 1/2 year old and our 5 year old, that the girl on the program was suffering from a disorder known as anorexia.
Age appropriateness is fundamental when dealing with a disorder of unknown etiolgy. For a
children's network to broadcast a show dealing with a psychological disorder that
even the experts cannot agree on, is remiss (no matter what their intention).
A little research and Linda Ellerbee would have found that nobody knows what
triggers anorexia, experts are confounded by the disorder, theories abound,
the only aspect on which there is universal agreement is that therapy is
vital.(SEE:Research bottom of this page)
Images are much more powerful than words, T.V. has known this for years.
The cardinal rule in T.V. is to hook the audience within the first few minutes of
any program. Time and again T.V. uses visual explotation and/or shock as the hook.
Succeed and they have an audience, fail and the remote control comes out. Within the
first three minutes of "The Body Trap", Linda Ellerbee visually shocked her young audience with a video of a 14 year old anorexic weighing
60 pounds. She was shown clad in only a hospital gown, narrating how she hated
herself. As if seeing this sad little person, walking and talking was not
shocking enough, Linda Ellerbee chose to inner cut still photos of her emaciated
body with the gown pulled up. To use adult journalistic shock tactics on our
children is unconscionable.
I currently know the background on 8 anorexic girls, 50% of them state that they developed anorexia after seeing it on television. One developed anorexia after seeing a 20/20 program, dealing with the prejudices that overwieght people deal with in society. Two developed anorexia after seeing a "movie of the week", where the main character was anorectic. And my daughter after seeing "The Body Trap". These findings seem to exemplify a long standing debate: do educational programs prevent eating disorders or contribute to them? This of course is not a scientific study, just a dad with some very disturbing news: Television programs dealing with anorexia and/or eating disorders are triggering anorexia in some of our children. These children may have had a predisposition and seeing the program set it off. The question is, had they not seen the program at a young age (when they did not possess the cognitive skills to deal properly with the program content) could this disorder have been avoided? With eating disorders on the rise, these issues better be faced.
For people who doubt the power television has over it's audience, simply
review the rules governing the tobacco industry. TV cigarette adds were abolished.
Why? Because it is believed that seeing it on TV may cause people to do something
they know will kill them - smoke.
I want to reach any parents who have noticed a severe change in their child's
eating habits since June of 1996. This program is still being broadcast on
NICKELODEON. It has damaged my daughter severely and will no doubt damage many
other young children who do not have the ability to digest the content.
*Poem By My Daughter On Anorexia
*Good Parents Searching For Answers Why
*Return to Anorexia Home Page
*Cheryl Wildes has created an excellent site on anorexia, containing a wealth of information including links to newsletters, chat groups and organizations. Thank you Cheryl!
*Research: Anorexia Nervosa