Childhood Plastic Surgery to Combat Bullying: A Disturbing Trend, Doctors say

HOUSTON - The number of children and teens getting plastic surgery has gone up 30 percent over the last decade.

More and more are resorting to operations to avoid being picked on and bullied.

Girl Gets Ears Pinned

You may remember South Dakota 1st grader Samantha Shaw. She went national after undergoing surgery to get her ears pinned back.

Her mom turned to plastic surgery as a preventative to bullying.

Shaw’s plastic surgeon believes there’s a difference between cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery.

While that may be true, many people don’t make that distinction. They say plastic surgery is plastic surgery and is not appropriate for a young child or teenager.

Surgeons Notice Changes

Dr. John Teichgraeber has operated on children for the past 25 years. The University of Texas Health plastic surgeon has recently noticed a change in his patients.

“The kids are much more attuned to their own personal appearance at a younger age. Their nose is a little off, they’ll start talking to me about it at 6-8, as opposed to 12-14 like they used to before,” Teichgraeber said.

For some parents, plastic surgery can seem like an easy fix if their child has prominent ears or a larger nose.

“A lot of these kids, they take abuse and one of the things parents say is, I don’t care how much this costs, they’re really affected when they go to school,” he said.

Plastic surgery needs to be a carefully considered decision, according to UTHealth child psychiatrist Dr. Oscar Bukstein.

“It’s something not only to discuss with your primary care physician and plastic surgeon, but also when you think there’s some sort of psychological problem, enroll a mental health professional,” said Dr. Bukstein.

Sending the Wrong Message

But Dr. Edward Reitman, another child psychologist, believes it’s sending the wrong message to children.

“If this was a physical handicap that was repairable, I understand that, but can you imagine what we’re starting? Is this a new form of advertising and creating business for plastic surgeons?” Reitman asked.

Some blame plastic surgeons and some blame parents. Others are blaming the media and society as a whole.

“It’s the whole image our society is giving people: you aren’t good enough, you need to be better, different,” Reitman said.

“They have knowledge of it in forms of media, TV, movies, ads, they know it’s possible. The message is already out,” Bukstein said.

But is it safe?

“That’s kind of the scary thing about plastic surgery, oh you can fix me, it’s just plastic surgery, well no you still have to be put to sleep, there’s still the risk of infection, still the risk of something catastrophic happening,” Teichgraeber said.

Dad: Surgery Wouldn’t Have Helped

David Truong knows bullying all too well. His 13-year old son, Asher Brown committed suicide last year after being severely bullied in school.

Asher was constantly picked on because of his big ears, David said.

But Truong insisted plastic surgery was out of the question.

“I told him that his face would catch up to his ears and he would laugh about it and I said, look you’re a little kid, you have adult ears. Your face will catch up. If you decide you want to alter a nose or ears, that’s a quick fix, but these bullies are going to find other things to pick on,” said Truong.

Students Vary in Opinion

Not everyone would agree with Truong’s argument.

“If a physical appearance thing is really detracting yourself from who you are as a person, to the point where you can’t be yourself, then I think it’s okay to go ahead and get a surgery,” student Cece White said.

“Plastic surgery is an option to save yourself, but it’s a last resort because it’s changing who you are,” student Mateo Mpinduzi-Mott said.

Others say, embrace your flaws.

“If your nose has a little bump or your ears are too big, own it and make it you, and things do get better,” student John Cameron Carter said.

“You are who you are, God made you the way you are and you should never change your appearance because somebody else has something to say about you,” student Scott Shelton said.

For more go to MyFOXHouston.

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