Hey Parents, Bullying This 'Too Skinny' YouTuber Will Not Save Our Daughters

eugenia cooney

The Internet is filled with content we'd rather not have our kids exposed to, but unfortunately we can't censor the entire World Wide Web. Still, that doesn't stop some of us from trying -- like the 14,000 people who recently signed a Change.org petition calling for popular beauty blogger Eugenia Cooney's YouTube channel to be shut down. Parents (and others) are concerned not only that Cooney's exceedingly thin appearance is triggering fans, but that she "has a serious medical condition and needs to seek help" -- and after you see her photos, you might just agree.

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Cooney, who has almost 900,000 subscribers, denies having an eating disorder and claims that she's "naturally" thin. But after a look through her Instagram, it's easy to see why some people might feel worried about her...

Woke up like an hour ago good morning guys � how are you doing today? �

A photo posted by Eugenia Cooney (@eugeniacooney) on

The most important thing to keep in mind is that for some impressionable fans, these photos are inspirational. As Erin Hillard, program manager of the University of Notre Dame's Body Image and Eating Disorder Lab, told Yahoo! Beauty, while it's "unlikely that Eugenia's YouTube channel alone would push someone with no body image problems into disordered eating behavior," there still could be reason to worry.

More from CafeMom: 7 Truths About Eating Disorders Every Parent Needs to Know

"In reading some of the comments on the petition from concerned parents who have indicated that their young girls have engaged in disordered eating habits as a result of watching Eugenia Cooney's YouTube, I do think the removal of her channel is something that Google should seriously consider," she said.

Cooney, meanwhile, apparently doesn't think that her visibility is hurting anyone. She posted a video responding to the recent negative attention she's been receiving, and in it she seems truly sincere.

Some people are saying I'm a 'bad influence on girls' and I just want you guys to know that I've never tried to be a bad influence on YouTube. I would never want to do that. I would never tell anybody to try to lose weight, or to try to change the way they look, or to look like me or anything like that. I would never tell anybody to do that because I just think that everybody should be themselves and do what makes them happy and be happy with themselves.

More from CafeMom: What Women Recovering From Eating Disorders Want You to Know

Agreed. Honestly, though, this is a tough call to make. To outside observers, yes, Cooney looks like someone in the throes of an advanced eating disorder. But the truth is, she's a perfect stranger -- we don't know for a fact that she's anorexic. We don't even know that she's sick at all, technically. Either way, if she's not giving girls diet tips or sharing self-starvation techniques, is it fair to shut down her channel based solely on her appearance? And what kind of lesson would we be teaching our children by first declaring her sick, and then, in response, banning her?

Don't get me wrong: As the mother of a teenage girl, I find the idea of fans trying to emulate Cooney's look incredibly upsetting, but I also wouldn't want to shelter my daughter from her existence. I'd rather talk to my daughter about Cooney and what her celebrity means and why teens would want to be like her (or anybody on YouTube, for that matter). I'd rather have an honest dialogue about Cooney's looks and the implications of her popularity, and also try to focus on fostering empathy for anyone who might be struggling publicly.

Banning Cooney, in my opinion, misses the point. If Cooney is ill, no matter what her illness, she deserves compassion. Condemning people who are sick does not help them to get better. Banning Cooney would send our kids the wrong message entirely about how to deal with eating disorders (and addictions, and a host of other issues).

Ultimately, I suppose, I feel the same way about Cooney as I do about most problematic Internet content: that it can all be turned into a teaching tool, a catalyst for meaningful conversations between parents and kids that might not happen otherwise.

We can't protect our kids from everything online. We can't shield them from the influence of the outside world, however potentially harmful that influence might be. We can only help them to face the world head-on, and teach them to process the things they see and hear with thoughtful consideration -- and without judgment or fear.

 

Image via eugeniacooney/Instagram

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