Mental Health
Social Good

YouTube updates guidelines for eating disorder-related content

The video platform announces prohibited content and age restrictions.
By Rebecca Ruiz  on 
Illustrated laptop screen designed to look like YouTube interface.
YouTube updated its guidelines for eating disorder content in partnership with key health experts. Credit: YoGinta / iStock / Getty Images Plus

YouTube announced Tuesday that it's updating the video platform's approach to eating disorder content.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, said in a statement that its community guidelines(opens in a new tab) will now prohibit material that features imitable behavior. The move is designed to limit viewers' exposure to videos that show or describe certain disordered eating behaviors, like severe calorie restriction or purging.

YouTube worked with experts at the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and other organizations to identify behaviors most likely to influence at-risk viewers. The new policies expand on existing guidelines that remove content that glorifies or promotes eating disorders.

The updated guidelines also implement age restrictions for content that discusses disordered eating in the context of recovery. While this content may appear in an educational, documentary, scientific, or artistic format(opens in a new tab), it will not be viewable for those under 18, or to users who are signed out. Additionally, such videos embedded on another website will not play.

YouTube said it sought to "strike the right balance" between protecting younger viewers from behaviors they may try to imitate and making it possible for creators to document their experiences with eating disorder recovery.

"YouTube is an important platform for raising awareness and understanding of mental health issues like eating disorders, and we want to continue empowering creators to share their stories," Dr. Garth Graham, director of health partnerships at YouTube, said in a statement. "We believe this approach, informed by third-party experts, creates space for community and recovery while protecting viewers."

While crisis resource panels, which contain referral information for people seeking help or treatment, currently appear in search results, YouTube's new approach will now include placing the same information under videos related to eating disorders in several countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, and France.

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YouTube said(opens in a new tab) the new policies will take time to implement and may not be immediately noticeable.

NEDA applauded YouTube's announcement, noting in a statement that the video platform notched over 1.4 billion views related to mental health content in the U.S., in 2021.

In collaboration with YouTube, the nonprofit organization recently launched a year-long series on its own YouTube channel(opens in a new tab) that focuses on eating disorder information and lived experience. The earlier a person with an eating disorder seeks and receives treatment, the likelihood that they'll have a physical and emotional recovery increases, according to NEDA.

"Video content is a compelling way to reach people online, and so we’re heartened by the further concrete actions being taken by YouTube to mitigate harm and help counteract content that can lead to an eating disorder," said Sarah Chase, vice president of communication for NEDA.

If you feel like you'd like to talk to someone about your eating behavior, call the National Eating Disorder Association's helpline at 800-931-2237. You can also text "NEDA" to 741-741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at the Crisis Text Line(opens in a new tab) or visit the nonprofit's website(opens in a new tab) for more information.

More in Social Good, YouTube

Rebecca Ruiz is a Senior Features Writer at Mashable. She frequently covers mental health, science, parenting, and politics for Mashable's Social Good coverage. She has also reported on gender and equality for the site. Prior to Mashable, Rebecca was a staff writer, reporter, and editor at NBC News Digital, special reports project director at The American Prospect, and staff writer at Forbes. Rebecca has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and a Master's in Journalism from U.C. Berkeley. In her free time, she enjoys playing soccer, watching movie trailers, traveling to places where she can't get cell service, and hiking with her border collie.

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