Facebook Basics

February 28, 2011

I still get a lot of basic usage questions from users about Facebook, so if you have questions, there’s a great Facebook 101 guide brought to you by the Goodwill Community Foundation, LearnFree.org.

This material provides clear answers to common questions about usage, privacy, safety, and, should you choose to stop using the service, deactivation. Much of the guide is done through interactive screens that let you discover the different elements and learn more about each.

If you have questions, this is a great starting point to look for answers.


If it’s Personal, or Controversial, Don’t Post it on Twitter

November 28, 2010

In an interview for Forbes.com, Linda Criddle, President LOOKBOTHWAYS and the Safe Internet Alliance outlined the most common mistakes consumers make when posting comments on Twitter.

To read the full article, click here. Read on for an excerpt of Linda’s comments.

Posting on Twitter requires even less time–and therefore, thought–than the average Facebook post. “People say, ‘I’m stuck in traffic,’ or ‘I’m at the mall, saw a great discount,'” says Criddle. “If I look at someone’s Twitter history over time, I’ll notice things like that they tweet from the same Starbucks ( SBUXnews - people ) every morning. People give away their daily routines, and that allows me to impersonate you, or ‘coincidentally’ meet you.”

What to do when meeting people in person. Criddle advises Twitter friends meeting in person for the first time to insist upon doing so in a public place. Guarding emotions is important, too. In addition to allowing crooks to feign empathy and build trust with victims, letting people know how you feel can put you at risk for emotional abuse and cyber-bullying, she warns.

Poorly thought-out social media posts can also ruin careers and destroy reputations. “There was the Obama speechwriter who put up the picture of himself groping a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton,” says Criddle. Tweeters and other social network users may also encounter malicious situations where someone else is deliberately trying to tear another person down, and there are unwitting attacks; a friend tweets something that gets you into hot water.”

To read the full article, click here

C’mon! Match Terms of Use Text to Users’ Comprehension Level

November 4, 2010

When users register on a website, they are obligated to adhere to the site’s Terms of Use [i], but how realistic is this obligation when users can’t understand the Terms? It would see the notion that Terms of Use should be written in language accessible to a site’s target audience is a concept sorely lacking in many company’s considerations.

To show how inaccessible the content in Terms of Use are, I ran several through a readability index – which is designed to gauge how easy a text is to read and calculates an estimate of the  (U.S.) grade level needed to fully comprehend the text. (I chose the Flesch-Kincaid Grade level model for this comparison.)

It doesn’t require a lot of thought to see how far out of end-user comprehension many of these Terms of Use actually are. To fully understand the iPhone App store’s or MTV’s Terms, a user needs a PhD – yet their target audience is teens. And little kids don’t stand a chance – they need to be in college before they’ll be able to grasp the Terms imposed by Club Penguin or NeoPets.

Comprehension level required to understand the Terms of Use for common adult sites:
  • Bank of America  – requires a college graduate’s reading comprehension level (Grade17)
  • Amazon – requires a third year college student’s reading comprehension level (Grade15)
  • New York Times  – requires a first year college student’s reading comprehension level (Grade13)
  • Twitter – requires a third year college student’s reading comprehension level (Grade15)
Comprehension level required to understand the Terms of Use for common teen sites:
  • iPhone App Store – requires a PhD’s reading comprehension level (Grade20)
  • MTV – requires a PhD’s reading comprehension level (Grade21)
  • Facebook  -requires an high school junior’s reading comprehension level (Grade 11)
Comprehension level required to understand the Terms of Use for common kids sites:
  • Club Penguin – requires a first year college student’s reading comprehension level (Grade13)
  • NeoPets – requires a first year college student’s reading comprehension level (Grade13)
  • Webkinz – requires a high school senior’s reading comprehension level (Grade 12)

If we want users to improve their behavior and be better digital citizens, it wouldn’t hurt to explain their obligations in terms they can grasp.



[i] For more information on consumers’ obligations, see my blog Website’s Rights and Responsibilities – They are Far More Than ‘Fine Print’)

Racism Online – How Comments Create a Dilemma for Mainstream Websites

October 21, 2010

Internet anonymity is a critical element in allowing people to retain their privacy for a wide spectrum of legitimate and honorable reasons.

Unfortunately, anonymity is also used as a blanket covering cowards who want to lash out while hiding from their actions; the racists, sexists, ageists, the religiously intolerant, the homophobes, the cyberbullies, cyberstalkers, cyber trolls, and every other miserable crank that wants to be mean without facing the consequences.

The Washington Post just posted an excellent article written by Jesse Washington of the Associated Press titled Racist messages pose quandary for mainstream sites that tackles the issues online news sites, and other web properties face when allowing readers to post comments on their sites.

In the article, Washington dives straight into the issues:

Do these [racist] comments reflect a reversal of racial progress? Is that progress an illusion while racism thrives underground? What kind of harm are these statements doing? Could there be any value in such venting? And what, if anything, should a free society do about it?

“We’ve seen comments that people would not make in the public square or any type of civic discussion, maybe even within their own families,” said Dennis Ryerson, editor of The Indianapolis Star. “There is no question in my mind that the process, because it’s largely anonymous, enables people who would never speak up on Main Street to communicate their thoughts.”

Hateful sentiments have unfortunately always been elements in our society, what the Internet has done is to provide a platform and megaphone for these views to be expressed publicly.

Linda Chavez, chairman of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity, says racist comments come from a “very small but often vocal minority of people”…. But she does see a destructive aspect: “It may actually increase the percentage who will feel comfortable expressing these views. Social pressure is important.”

Providing comments sections for readers is intended to increase engagement with the websites, build a sense of community, expand discussions, and bring in higher advertising dollars. But the cost in terms of civility can be steep, and the cost of hiring moderators to filter out hate comments can be high.

“It astonishes me that they [companies with websites] allow such blatant expressions,” said Robert Steele, a journalism scholar at DePauw University and The Poynter Institute.  “Even if it’s legitimate to try and draw viewers to sites, is it legitimate to allow individuals who are swinging a sharp ax, and often doing so with a hood over their heads in anonymous fashion, to have this forum that can not only create harm but breed hatred? I recognize the value of citizen dialogue, but when the comments are poisonous … you have to go back to the issue of why you would allow the dialogue.”

Echoing this sentiment, Herb Strentz, a retired journalism professor and dean at Drake University in Des Moines said, “For me, all the problems of online anonymity and comments outweigh any imagined benefits. If people want to contribute thoughtful things, they should be willing to stand up for them and be quoted.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups in America has more than doubled in the last 10 years, totaling 932 identified hate groups in 2009. And Anti-Defamation League civil rights director Deborah Lauter said there are thousands of hate websites, some with tens of thousands of viewers each month.

Tackling Hatred Online

The most common ‘solution’ described to stop hate content on news sites, and other web properties, is to require users authenticate themselves before posting content. This is actually a fairly cumbersome and difficult task. Exactly how would a website do this? Using a credit card ID? A driver’s license?  While ‘good’ people can show their credentials, they may be reluctant to relinquish personally sensitive information – I would be.  For ‘bad’ people, getting a fake ID, or using someone else’s ID, isn’t hard to do.

This solution also places the websites and companies in the position of needing to validate and store this sensitive information, a job they should be reluctant to take on.

This leaves us with three primary methods for tackling expressions of hatred online

  1. Teach tolerance and acceptance to reduce the audience for hate sites and hate content – an ongoing effort that to date has yielded mixed results, but an effort that must continue nevertheless.
  2. Filter consumer content ideally prior to upload onto news sites, and other web properties, but at a minimum shortly after posting. This is a very expensive proposition, but critical to maintaining the reputation of websites.
  3. Deploy a system that rates users by reputation. Similar to Ebay, or how credit bureaus work. This allows users to remain anonymous because it doesn’t care who the user is, it cares how the user behaves.

I rarely use this blog site to promote a product, and even less frequently tell you about the products that LOOKBOTHWAYS Inc. has developed.

This is one of those rare exceptions, because our ReputationShare service is designed for just this type of scenario.

ReputationShare places privacy first. At no time does our service ever know who a user is, we simply know – and share with participating companies – how that user behaves online.

This service enables web services to instantly know the reputation of someone coming to their site- without that individual identify themselves by name or other personally identifiable information.  With this information, websites can determine how they want to interact with that user. They may choose to welcome a user with a sterling online reputation with open arms and extra bonuses, welcome a user with an ok reputation with no reservations (but no extras), or welcome a user who’s had a history of disrespectful/racist/bullying or other issue but include some restrictions on their ability to do things like post comments until the user has kept their nose clean for a while.

This service is totally transparent to users, they can see their reputation score at any time, and they can challenge any negative (or positive, but we’ve never seen that happen!) score they’ve been given by taking the issue up with the company that gave them the score. Essentially, ReputationShare works like a credit bureau with one key difference – we don’t know who you are, just how you behave.

For companies, this enables strong moderation of consumer content their websites at a very low cost in two ways:

  • Once the company establishes the guidelines for how users with different types of reputations are handled, these settings are reflected in the user’s registration process. Problem users, who aren’t allowed to post content, aren’t going to leave a mess for moderators to clean up.
  • Consumers with a good reputation want to maintain their good reputation and are likely to act appropriately. This means that websites don’t have to monitor 100% of comments; they only need to monitor the comments left by the 5-15% of users who are known to behave poorly, or who for whatever reason do not have an established reputation.

This service also helps consumer through the services. First, I don’t have to be subjected to content that is offensive. I can also set my options to only receive interactions from people with a reputation rating above ‘x’; where I can choose for myself, or for minors in my care, the types of people that can interact with us.  For example, on an online dating site, I may say that I don’t want to be paired up with anyone who has been flagged for cyberstalking or financial scams, and then anyone who had these negative reputation flags would be eliminated from my search results.

We can tackle online civility and it is critical that we do so. The internet is in its infancy, but the choices we make now about acceptable online behavior will have very long shadows.


Could Facebook Go the Way of MySpace?

October 18, 2010

The Wall Street Journal has caught Facebook in flagrante again This time, WSJ reports, in a front-page expose that the most popular applications, or “apps,” on world’s No. 1 social-networking site  have been selling users’ information—including access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies.

The abuse affects tens of millions of Facebook users – including those who set their profiles to the strictest privacy settings.

ALL of the 10 most popular apps that Facebook’s 500m users play or use to share common interests have been selling user’s information to outside companies. Three of these companies, including Farmville with 59m users, have also been selling personal information about a user’s friends, which means whether you personally used these games or applications becomes irrelevant – if you have a friend who played, your information was likely grabbed and sold as well.

Though the practice of reselling consumer information breaches Facebook’s rules, policy enforcement is clearly lacking when it is the Wall Street Journal, not internal proactive monitoring, that discovers the abuse of consumer information. Confronted with the WSJ expose, a Facebook spokesman said on Sunday that “it is taking steps to “dramatically limit” the exposure of users’ personal information.”  But that comes well after the horse left the barn. To understand just how rapidly that information is sold and resold, see the screenshot taken from a WSJ article at the bottom of this blog.

This expose comes on top of a law suit over Facebook’s own now-discontinued practice of sending users’ data to advertisers without users’ knowledge – a case also brought to light by the WSJ last May. Facebook had been sending Facebook ID codes to advertisers under some circumstances when users clicked on an ad. The codes could then be used by the advertisers to look up individual profiles, which could include a person’s real name, age, hometown, or other details. Facebook has since discontinued the practice.

Attention, Facebook execs: remember MySpace! It used to be considered unstoppable, but as soon as the company became synonymous with sexual predators and scams, the vast majority of users left the site – and what’s left? A shadow.

Consumers, know your strength. Online Companies don’t make money primarily by selling advertising — they make money selling access to YOU, and information about YOU, to advertisers. You and your information are top commodities in the online world.

Think about it: other than its servers and code, what is Facebook’s value? It’s the 500m users they have to attract advertisers and advertising dollars. If Facebook’s users left the site, what would Facebook have left? Just a bunch of servers and code.

The lesson is that if you don’t like the way you’re treated, and you choose en masse to migrate, internet empires topple.

Consumers hold the ultimate power in a model that makes you the commodity, but you don’t yet know it, or how you can wield that power.

How can the Internet become more responsible regarding consumer privacy? Three things that haven’t happened need to happen:

  1. Consumers need to understand how and why their information is being used – and when it is being exploited. Until  prominent disclosure of each company’s policy regarding user information is mandatory, the question of what is being disclosed will run underneath the collective consumer consciousness.
  2. A watchdog organization needs to be established, to which consumers can turn to see how various companies treat their data, their privacy and their safety. The WSJ article series lays a strong foundation for this, but it’s a one-off effort, not the sustained oversight needed. The Safe Internet Alliance has proposed taking on, or helping to create, this role, but it is still far from accomplishing that goal or getting stakeholder buy-in. In the absence of self-regulatory or a consumer watch organization, this role will need to fall to a government body like the FTC.
  3. Consumers need to find a way to collaborate better. It’s a united we stand, divided we fall scenario where any one user doesn’t make a difference to a company wielding 500m users; but 5 million organized users – or 100m users – demanding change can make even the largest company quail. I’m confident that at least 100m users would stand together in outrage over what’s happened to their data, and the data of their friends. They just need a rallying point.

I am not opposed to online advertising — it’s what funds our ‘free’ use of internet services. What does concern me is knowing which companies are tracking me and how they are doing so, understanding the privacy elements that are in place to protect me, and being able to opt out if I choose to do so.

We consumers played a role in the creation of this ad-driven internet model. The dot.com bubble burst of 2000 happened because internet companies built their content and services assuming we would subscribe to use their services and thereby make their companies profitable. But we didn’t want to pay for subscriptions —  we wanted everything to be free. Somehow we forgot that free doesn’t pay the bills, let alone turn a profit.

We forced internet companies to either go bankrupt, or find a new revenue model that would extract money from those willing to pay, and that happened to be the advertisers. What internet companies quickly learned was that the more targeted ads could be, the more advertisers were willing to pay them for access to their users.

It doesn’t take a leap to understand how we’ve come to a place were you and your data are commodities, and where the environment makes ‘shoplifting’ your data (taking it without your knowledge or permission) very enticing.

Which brings us back to the start of this story:  how Facebook’s top applications providers have taken up the practice of stealth exploitation of your data; how Facebook’s previously indulged in stealth exploitation of your data; how your your Facebook privacy settings have changed time after time under your feet (leaving your data information exposed); and how thousands of other websites follow the same practices. Not to mention the dozens of data aggregator and advertising sites who snap up your data knowing full well you did not give your permission for it to be sold or bought.

To learn more, see my blog posts Know Which Companies Track You For Behavioral Advertising?, and Ad Stalking – When Ads Follow You Online, and the WSJ series What They Know that outlines how companies track and share your information. I recommend you search the WSJ list to look at the behavior of any sites you use.

Already this morning I’ve received a flurry of calls and emails from consumers asking what they should do. My advice? Stop using these applications, demand your information be removed from their sites, then let Facebook,  your Attorney General and the FTC know of your outrage.

Since contacting Facebook can be difficult to accomplish, here is the phone number to Facebook’s customer service: 650-543-4800  and Fax: 650-543-4801

Click here to find your Attorney General and how to contact them

Click here to file a complaint with the FTC.


AOL Introduces SafeSocial, a New Option for Parents

September 7, 2010

With the introduction of SafeSocial, AOL has once again taken the lead among the major ISP’s in providing online safety tools. This time, they’ve taken a significant step forward from the virtually-unchanged-in-the-last-20-years basic parental controls of ‘block and filter’, which have been standard issue by ISP’s, to compete with the new independent family safety products on the market.

AOL’s SafeSocial is based on a license agreement with SocialShield and the product has the ability to screen kids’ friends across 50 different databases to identify where your child has online accounts, identify who your child is friends with, screen for posts with at-risk content, and view photos your child has posted or others have posted that include your child.

The service comes with a 30 day free trial before costing $9.99 a month, and if you have kids in the 11-16 age range it’s worth checking out.

Let’s see how the other key industry players respond…


Facebook Places – What it Does, Why They Built it, and its Impact on You

August 21, 2010

If you haven’t heard that Facebook has rolled out ‘Places’ a new feature that allows you to broadcast your location, you’re probably over the age of 30 and not a Facebook user. But that still makes you part of a huge segment of the population, and one in which many parents of Facebook users fall into.

I’m not fundamentally opposed to location broadcasting – popularly called location ‘check-ins’. Done carefully and with deliberation announcing your location isn’t necessarily a bad thing, a point underscored by Michael Sharon, product manager for Places. “This is not a service to broadcast your location at all times, but rather one to share where you are, who you are with, when you want to. It lets you find friends that are nearby and help you discover nearby places.”

Facebook isn’t the first service to enable location beaconing, social networking services like Foursquare and Gowalla are specifically designed let you to share location information with others, and services like Mologogo have been around since 2005.

What Facebook’s Places service does

Facebook’s new geolocation features allows users to update their status with their exact location, tag themselves in pictures based on location, and tag friends who are with them in same the location. These check-ins are then broadcast as status updates on users personal sites, on a user’s friends pages, and on the Places page for that location.

Note: For now, the ability to check in at a particular location is only available for users on mobile phones.

Sharing this information can help users invite friends to their location, or join friends at their location. It can help drive awareness for events – for example, I was at the PII 2010 conference held in Seattle earlier this week, and Places made it possible to see which other experts were in attendance, and help potential attendees determine what times they wanted to be there. Sharing location information can also provide users with location based coupons and ads that they may find useful, reviews of businesses and restaurants that they may want to eat in, and identification of the popular spots around them – something that may be particularly interesting for tourists.

At the same time, sharing your location information, or the location of others, can jeopardize you or your friends ‘privacy and safety, with consequences that can range from embarrassing to deadly.

According to Walt Mossberg‘s Facebook Places review, Facebook has set an age limit so that “minors are excluded from seeing anyone except their friends.” I haven’t been able to learn more about any restrictions for youth but hope that there are also restrictions on who can see the location posted by a minor – and a clear notice to youth to talk to their parents about the feature. Another concern is that even if there are strong protections in place for minors, we know that a tremendous number of minors lie about their age on social networks, and for these, protections won’t take effect.

The business case for releasing Places

Businesses are in the business of making money, and rightly so.

Facebook says the reason they have added Places is simply enrich the social experience it already provides. “We’re just building a new way for people to share that information in an engaging way,” says one Facebook official. Facebook says it isn’t monetizing the service, at least not at first [italics added], but may consider ways for companies to make use of the data “down the line.”  This seems more than a little disingenuous.

Facebook expects that Places will increase consumers’ use of their service, and increased usage translates into more advertising dollars. Collecting users’ location information is particularly lucrative in that it will allow Facebook to capture the advertising dollars from local and small businesses that aren’t interested in the broader nationwide type of coverage. To date, this small and local advertising market has been a largely untapped revenue opportunity for internet companies, and both Facebook and Google are vying to capture this mobile advertising and local search revenue stream.

“Location gives marketers a great way to target customers,” said Debra Williamson, an analyst with eMarketer. “The whole idea is to reach people at the point of decision before they have to clip a coupon or perform a search.”

Three reasons why Facebook’s method of rollout, and lack of education materials are disappointing

  1. The arrival of Facebook’s location tracking service was not a deep dark secret – so why didn’t they educate their users – and their user’s parents - in advance of the rollout about the pro’s and con’s of using location services, and how to use these safely?

    Let’s go back to the Michael Sharon quote This is not a service to broadcast your location at all times, but rather one to share where you are, who you are with, when you want to. It lets you find friends that are nearby and help you discover nearby places.”

    Exactly how should a basic user have learned what’s involved in making informed decisions about when they might “want to” share? Who explained the potential ramifications of doing so in various circumstances?

    Where’s the information that says people who:

    1. frequently check-in from bars may see their auto insurance rates increase in the future?
    2. check-in daily from the doughnut shop may see an increase their medical insurance?
    3. checked-in years ago from a questionable location may see it haunt their reputation?
    4. lied about being sick, get fired after checking-in from the beach?
    5. broadcast their location increase their risk of physical stalking and harm?
    6. and so on…

    Awareness of these risks doesn’t come in one’s DNA at birth; it needs to be taught, and it should be taught by the very companies rolling out these services. I am less frustrated that this education wasn’t launched by the smaller location social networks, as their audiences are largely more tech savvy. But for Facebook, with its enormous number of users who are far less technically sophisticated, failing to provide this basic safety and privacy education is outrageous.

  2. Then there is the question of settings. These exist, but where are the step-by-step settings guide to help consumers actually achieve the privacy and safety they desire? Why do consumers need to go to places like Gawker to understand that The First Thing You Should Do With Facebook Places: Don’t Let Other People Tag You, or Lifehacker to learn How to Disable Facebook Places?Watch Lifehacker’s video on Facebook’s Places’ privacy settings:

    At this week’s PII 2010 conference, a UI designer (someone who designs the user interface for products and services) said that among the UI world, they’ve coined the phrase “Zuckering” (Mark Zuckerman is the CEO of Facebook) which means to make the user experience so complicated that consumers can’t figure out how to appropriately create their settings and simply give up. That the phrase was coined – and well understood by tech insiders – speaks volumes about the company’s failure to make their settings understandable to average users. Given this complexity, the lack of a step-by-step guide is especially irresponsible.

  3. You are automatically opted in to Places, if you don’t like it, you have to figure out how to opt out. And what it takes to opt out is a clear example of the “Zuckering” described above. The settings are scattered across the overall privacy settings, and nothing indicates which settings are impacted.There are four critical settings to review and adjust (While you’re at it, take the to review the rest of your settings and the settings of minors in your care as well):Log into Facebook and choose Privacy settings under your Account menu.  Next, on the bottom left, you’ll see the Customize option. Click on this to see the Customize settings option at the bottom of that page.

    Under “Things I Share” change two settings if you don’t want to be seen. Where it says “Places I check in” the default is set to visible by your friends only. To change this, use the drop down menu and select “Only Me.” (Note: once Facebook begins monetizing Places, it is unclear whether the ‘only me’ setting may still make your location visible to merchants. This will be something to watch for in the future.)

    Next, there is a checkbox next to “Include me in ‘People Here Now’ after I check in” that is by default set to enabled. What this does is to share your location to anyone looking at that location’s page, or in a search for people near you. Uncheck the Enable box if you don’t want this.

    The third setting to look at is on this same page, just scroll down to the section “Things Others Share” for “Friends can check me in to Places.” This fields may be blank, but change it to be “Disabled” or friends can check you in whether you like it or not – and where they check you in could cause you real harm – see just a few examples listed above, then come up with your own. The service does not require that a user tells the truth about a location.

    Lastly, you need to go back to your Privacy Settings page and select the “Applications and Websites” link, and navigate to the Info accessible through your friends section. Click on Edit Settings link and uncheck the box Places I check in to.

When a company is as big as Facebook or Google, it has a social responsibility to help drive the public discussion around privacy and safety tradeoffs; to educate consumers; and to actively design features that can be easily configured to comply with consumers’ intent. These companies should take some lessons on social responsibility from the large internet companies that helped forge the way, and made (and continue to make) consumer safety and awareness front and center. These include Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo!.


Study of Pro Eating-Disorder Websites Highlights Risks – Part 2 of 3

August 10, 2010

Prevalence of Pro eating-disorder sites

The prevalence of pro-eating disorder sites show the determination of this group.  According to the “2008 International Internet Trends Study” issued by Optenet, pro-ana and pro-mia sites increased by 469.42 percent between 2006 and 2007 – rising from 278 sites to 1,583. A rate of expansion that was triple that of violence-based sites, and more than six times the rate of increase of racism sites. In fact, pro-ana sites showed the largest percentage growth of the 52 categories that were evaluated by Optenet, even outpacing personal Web pages (which recorded a 455 percent increase).

These increases come in spite of a 10-year effort by search engines such as Yahoo and MSN to shut down websites that promote eating disorders. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, over 90% of these websites are open to the public.

Eating Disorder Statistics

(NOTE: Minor differences in percentages are found between various resources)

Statistics from the South Carolina Dept. of Mental Health:

  • It is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men
  • One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia
  • Two to three in 100 American women suffers from bulimia
  • Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder
  • An estimated 10 – 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are males
  • A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 – 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years and only 30 – 40% ever fully recover
  • The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old.
  • Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents
  • 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25
  • 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight
  • 80% of 13-year-olds have attempted to lose weight

Statistics from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated disorders:


  • 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting.
    • Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.5
    • 91% of women surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting.
      • 22% dieted “often” or “always.”5
    • 86% report onset of eating disorder by age 20; 43% report onset between ages of 16 and 20.6
    • 25% of college-aged women engage in bingeing and purging as a weight-management technique.3
    • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.17


  • An estimated 10-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.9
  • Men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the perception that they are “woman’s diseases.”10
  • Among gay men, nearly 14% appeared to suffer from bulimia and over 20% appeared to be anorexic.11

For Women

  • Research suggests that about 1 percent of female adolescents have anorexia.15
  • An estimated 3.7 percent of women suffer from anorexia nervosa in their lifetime.14
  • About 50 percent of people who have had anorexia develop bulimia or bulimic patterns.15
  • An estimated 1.1 to 4.2 percent of women have bulimia nervosa in their lifetime.14
  • An estimated 2 to 5 percent of Americans experience binge-eating disorder in a 6-month period.14
  • 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.18
  • The body type portrayed in advertising as the ideal is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females.3
  • In a survey of 185 female students on a college campus, 58% felt pressure to be a certain weight,
    • of the 83% that dieted for weight loss, 44% were of normal weight.16
    • 47% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.12
    • 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.13
    • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (Collins, 1991).
    • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (Mellin et al., 1991).

Cited Sources:

  1. Mortality in Anorexia Nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1995; 152 (7): 1073-4.
  2. Characteristics and Treatment of Patients with Chronic Eating Disorders, by Dr. Greta Noordenbox, International Journal of Eating Disorders, Volume 10: 15-29, 2002.
  3. The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, “Eating Disorders 101 Guide: A Summary of Issues, Statistics and Resources,” 2003.
  4. American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074, Sullivan, Patrick F.
  5. Shisslak, C.M., Crago, M., & Estes, L.S. (1995). The Spectrum of Eating Disturbances. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18 (3): 209-219.
  6. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders 10-year study, 2000
  7. Public Health Service’s Office in Women’s Health, Eating Disorders Information Sheet, 2000.
  8. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), The Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), offices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  9. Carlat, D.J., Camargo. Review of Bulimia Nervosa in Males. American Journal of Psychiatry, 154, 1997.
  10. American Psychological Association, 2001.
  11. International Journal of Eating Disorders 2002; 31: 300-308.
  12. Prevention of Eating Problems with Elementary Children, Michael Levine, USA Today, July 1998.
  13. Ibid.
  14. The National Institute of Mental Health: “Eating Disorders: Facts About Eating Disorders and the Search for Solutions.” Pub No. 01-4901. Accessed Feb. 2002. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/nedspdisorder.cfm.
  15. Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc. website. Accessed Feb. 2002. http://www.anred.com/
  16. Nutrition Journal. March 31, 2006.
  17. Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2005). I’m, Like, SO Fat!. New York: The Guilford Press. pp. 5.
  18. The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, “Eating Disorders 101 Guide: A Summary of Issues, Statistics and Resources,” published September 2002, revised October 2003, http://www.renfrew.org


Continued in next post…

Games Most Popular, but Social Networking Fastest Growing Mobile App

June 8, 2010

Two new research studies by The Nielsen Company and comScore outline the growth in mobile application usage.

Games rank first among popular cell phone applications in the US among both Smartphone and feature phone users, according to “App Playbook” data from The Nielsen Company.

Music ranks second, with nearly an equal number of Smartphone and feature phone users.

Mobile networking ranks third, but it is the fastest growing category.

Between April 2009 and April 2010, the number of mobile phone users who accessed a social networking application showed a growth of 240% – the number of users increased from 4.3 million to 14.5 million. according to comScore MobiLens data.

While several other categories also saw triple digit growth (news, sports info, bank accounts and weather) the potential risks of mobile social networking, and mobile photo/video sharing (which saw a 93% increase) are unique.

The advice about maintaining privacy and avoiding over-sharing needs to be amplified when talking about networking on mobile devices as phones intrinsic nature sets the stage for instant sharing – even when a little more thought would lead to better discretion.

With several phone services offering instant upload of almost all your content, keeping your reputation in mind will be of paramount importance.


3 Habits of Healthy Social Networkers

May 26, 2010

Friends change, employers change, interests change – and privacy policies of the sites you use change. Unfortunately, many users forget to consider these changes and ‘clean house’ on their blogs or social networking sites periodically. As you continue to engage online, apply 3 basic housekeeping techniques to help protect your online health, safety and privacy.

  1. Review settings – do your privacy settings still fit your needs? Have new features been introduced by the service that influence your privacy settings? Have their been any changes to the websites privacy policy that affects your information’s security?
  2. Review content – content you’ve added and the comments left by others. Information accumulates over time, so understanding how much is being shared and is critical. Pare back where needed, and periodically search on your name, nicknames, addresses etc. to learn just how much information about you is floating around.
  3. Review contacts – are they all still relevant? Who do you interact with online, what level of access to your information do they have, and who should no longer have access? Have your friends changed the permissions on their sites? If so, is information you shared in private with them now become public?

Housekeeping is rarely a top priority for social network users; we just want to interact. Yet most problems on social networking sites can be traced back to lack of housekeeping in one or more of these areas.

Time to clean house?



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