It is common for kids to be teased or bullied for their physical features. Some parents nowadays, instead of teaching their child to love themselves for who they are, are changing their child’s physical appearance to prevent bullying.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons said plastic surgery has grown 30% in the past decade. In 2008, 160,283 children under 18 had surgery, and 76,000 surgeries were performed on teenagers in 2011.
Many children undergo surgery to fix features that cause health problems, such as cleft palates or serious deformities. For example, in 2009, then-eight-year-old Ryan Cunningham of New York state was born with two perfectly good ears but only had one outer ear. His parents took him to a surgeon and attached an ear to his head.
However, Dr. Donn Chatham, plastic surgeon in Louisville, KY and president of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, said the majority of kids who desire the surgeries “are otherwise healthy kids looking to improve an awkward but functional feature, such as a large nose or small breasts.”
The parents in these cases approve Botox injections, laser hair removal, breast augmentations, pinning back big ears, and removing moles.
Little Baby Face Foundation was established in 2002 to provide for children with severe deformities like Cunningham, but they recently branched out to cover minor surgeries. In 2011, seven-year-old Samantha Shaw received a free surgery from the foundation to pin back her ears. She told “Good Morning America” she was not even teased about her ears. Her mother said kids and parents asked her “hurtful” questions about Samantha’s ears, and she opted to have the surgery to prevent bullying. More parents are opting for surgery to prevent any possible future problems.
Six-year-old Kendall Elliot was one of his patients after her mother Katherine decided it was time to get rid of a mole that had been on her chin since birth.
“I could hear the kids say, “That little girl there – the one with the big brown spot on her face,” Mrs Elliot said. “We wanted to stop it before it became a problem.”
Kate Deleveileuse was self-conscious about her calves when she was 16 because she felt uncomfortable in shorts and capri pants. She hated the fact she could not wear knee-high boots. She asked her mother if she could have liposuction on her legs and her mother said yes.
Dr. Joe Niamtu, a surgeon in Virginia, said his most common procedures are pinning back ears and removing moles, birthmarks, or scars. He and other surgeons justify their procedures because they believe children speak more candidly than adults, and teasing could cause problems for its targets in the future. Dr. Steven Pearlman performed Samantha’s surgery and said her surgery was not cosmetic because her ears could have caused her problems.
Many experts do not think plastic surgery is the answer to bullying. “Changing appearance is not the solution,” said Cheryl Rode, director of clinical operations at the San Diego Center for Children. “We never want to hold the victim responsible for the bullying.”
Rode said the responsibility must lie with schools and other places where children are as well as with society. “It is our responsibility on a national level, not the responsibility of parents of victims to make change happen.”
Washington, DC dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon Hema Sundaram will not perform any surgery on a child that makes them more adult or sexual. She bans Botox, fillers, liposuction, bikini waxes, and skin rejuvenation for children.
Lloyd Krieger is the medical director of Rodeo Drive Plastic Surgery in Beverly Hills and he said many children ask him for surgery, but he turns down two-thirds of them after a phone evaluation.