Bullying: Does it get better with plastic surgery?

Bullying: Does it get better with plastic surgery?
Bullying: Does it get better with plastic surgery?

Little kids in the schoolyard might go around chanting, "Words will never hurt me," but we all know that excess teasing and bullying can have a damaging impact on self-esteem, classroom performance and relationships. In some cases, cyberbullying has even led to the tragic suicides of middle- and high-school students.

What if you could end bullying once and for all with a plastic surgery procedure? Recent news reports and trends suggest that this is exactly what American children and teenagers are doing.

Molehill or mountain
WRIC Richmond News reported that parents in Virginia are increasingly taking their children to plastic surgeon offices. The act is a preventive measure for many parents, with the hope that altering imperfections will quell bullying before it gets out of control.

Katherine Elliot told the news source that she contacted a plastic surgeon to remove a mole from her 6-year-old daughter's chin. The mole formed when her daughter was a baby and continued to grow until it became the focal point of her child's face.

"That's the first thing people saw - the very first thing people saw. ... I could hear the kids say, 'That little girl there - the one with the big brown spot on her face,'" Elliot said. "We wanted to stop it before it became a problem."

A new rite of passage
While mole removal might be a non-invasive procedure, research shows that children are consistently receiving more complicated surgeries. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the most common procedure for children and teens under the age of 18 is cosmetic ear surgery, which re-shapes the ears to make them smaller and more proportionate. Rhinoplasty is also popular among children and teens. Overall, cosmetic surgeries among children have increased 30 percent over the last 10 years, according to ASAPS. 

One Virginia-based plastic surgeon told the news source that children who receive cosmetic surgery early on in life might have better self-confidence in the long term.

"Ideally, we want to correct it before they start school, because little kids have no filter," the plastic surgeon said.

Cause for alarm?
While media outlets like Good Morning America have reported on the trend of kids plastic surgery, data compiled by ASAPS show that children and teens under the age of 18 account for just 1 percent of plastic surgery procedures performed in 2010. Additional research shows that plastic surgery among teens has actually decreased over the last decade, with only roughly 130,000 procedures, compared to 220,000 in 2002.

Plastic surgery for children might not be as trendy as its hype, but the practice is still a major point of contention for plastic surgeons. While the National Institutes of Health states that cosmetic ear surgery is safe to perform on children as young as five - and mole and birthmark removal can be done even younger - some believe it teaches both the bully and the victim the wrong lessons.

"Changing appearance is not the solution," one San Diego-based surgeon told Good Morning American in 2011. "We never want to hold the victim responsible for the bullying."