Teens, Bullying, and Plastic Surgery
TEENS, BULLYING AND PLASTIC SURGERY
by Sam Pick
In an age driven by social media, celebrity status and body image, cyber and schoolyard bullying is luring a nation of American teenagers to undergo plastic surgery. While it is tough to find any teenager who doesn’t struggle with some form of angst, when did plastic surgery become the go-to option? In the 14-year period from 1996 through 2010, statistics show the number of teenagers age 13-19 having elective cosmetic surgery rose an astonishing 548%— from around 14,000 procedures to over 76,000—with more recent figures indicating that the number of teenagers undergoing plastic surgery each year is now at 90,000!
Has bullying really intensified that much? Recent cases have indicated that the Internet has had a great part to play in it, specifically Facebook. 13 year-old Nicolette Taylor was one such teenager who was bullied at school and then again with comments posted on her Facebook page. (Facebook accounts, incidentally, are not supposed to be opened by 13 year-olds, per Facebook’s Terms of Service). The influence of Facebook magnified the problem for Nicolette with the comments being open for public view and scrutiny. Nicolette had broken her nose twice in her younger years, resulting in a nose that “hangs crooked,” in her own words. Taunted with nicknames like “Big Nose,” Nicolette saw only one way to stop the bullying, and that was rhinoplasty.
After noticing the impact online bullying was having on their daughter, Nicolette’s parents agreed to take her to see renowned Manhattan plastic surgeon Dr. Sam Rizk. Dr. Rizk only performs rhinoplasty and ear surgery, and deals with many teens and their parents who wish to have plastic surgery to put an end to bullying. (In case you were wondering, there is a psychological evaluation before any such surgery takes place, but if passed, this life-altering decision is left ultimately to the teenager.) Nicolette had a successful surgery and returned to school knowing that the bullying may continue, but with her newfound confidence, she didn’t care.
In a separate case just a few months ago, 14 year-old Nadia Ilse underwent radical facial surgery after years of schoolyard bullying. When most teens were out enjoying their summer, Nadia went under the knife, getting a nose job, a chin implant and her ears pinned back. Interestingly, Nadia’s surgery was provided free of charge thanks to an organization called Little Baby Face Foundation. There’s no denying that handing out $40,000 worth of surgery to a troubled teen is a very generous gesture—but is it sending the right message?
Dr. Thomas Romo, president of the Little Baby Face Foundation, says that Nadia was not elected for surgery based on the bullying she had endured. Nadia was a legitimate candidate due to her deformities. Initially, she wanted some sort of plastic surgery for her ears, having been called “Dumbo” and “Elephant Ears” throughout childhood. Though when she was consulted by Dr. Romo, he suggested additional corrective surgery. (Nadia was born with bilateral lop-eared deformities on both ears, a condition where the person is missing the folds within the ear and the bowl of the ear sticks out.) Dr. Romo also suggested a chin implant to help balance her face, and a nose job to fix a deviated septum.
That’s the difference in the two cases at hand. One teenager underwent cosmetic surgery purely because she was being bullied and wanted to change. In Nadia’s case, her functionality was restricted, and she had medical deformities that could be helped through corrective surgery.
We have the technology to ”fix” protruding ears and large noses and even non-cosmetic issues, like a deviated septum. And that's great. But what about the real issues at hand here? There are obviously problems that aren’t being addressed in our schools, and teenagers are often too scared to turn to their parents. Age restrictions aside, Consumer Reports say there are some 7 million kids under the age of 13 who have Facebook accounts. If bullying remains, with the amount of teenagers using social media only rising, is the number of teenage plastic surgeries going to continue to rise, too?
Article posted 10/17/2012.