Would You Recommend Plastic Surgery for Bullied Children?

Sadly, it seems we can’t open the newspaper these days without seeing another story about bullying. While bullying has always existed, it seems that now kids are even more at risk. This is due in large part to the fact that, in today’s digital age, social media and other factors have exacerbated the situation by contributing to the rise of a new form of bullying: cyberbullying.

In this environment — for a couple of different reasons — some bullied children (and their parents) are turning to plastic surgery. Recent surveys of facial plastic surgeons have shown a steady increase in facial plastic surgery procedures among those under age 25. In fact, according to participating surgeons in one study, over three-fourths of youths deciding to have facial plastic surgery do so because of bullying.

Most kids who choose to have plastic surgery do so in order to change a feature they believe is contributing to their being bullied. Shockingly, however, in more extreme cases, children are turning to plastic surgery to repair physical harm suffered as a result of being badly beaten. In either case, given the growing problem of bullying in our society, it is natural to wonder if plastic surgery is an appropriate way to restore a child’s appearance and self-esteem.

It is a very delicate question involving complex physical and psychological issues.


Should Bullied Children Have Plastic Surgery?

Bullied children may be having plastic surgery in growing numbers … but should they?

On the surface, it may seem inappropriate, and in many cases it is. Whether a child is a suitable candidate for plastic surgery depends on a variety of factors. These include the extent to which the child is affected or harmed, as well as the child’s age, level of physical development, maturity level, psychological/emotional outlook and other factors.

If a child meets all the criteria and wishes to have plastic surgery, it can be a very effective way to improve his or her appearance — and boost self-esteem.


Under What Circumstances Is It Appropriate?

To have plastic surgery, a child must be deemed psychologically fit and mature enough to handle the situation. It is also important to note that the decision to have plastic surgery can only be made by the patient, not by his or her parents.

All of this is moot in some cases, because regardless of the circumstances, there are only two areas of the face I will treat on a child: the ears and nose. The reason for this is that these are the only areas that (may) have finished developing.

The classic example of a child who may benefit from plastic surgery is one with large or protruding ears. Ear surgery, or “otoplasty,” is actually more common in kids. Sometimes the idea is first conceived as a preventive measure by parents who see the prospect of bullying on the horizon.

While most areas of the body — including the nose and other facial features — continue developing and growing well into the teenage years, the ears don’t grow much after about age 8-10. As a result, it is less risky to operate on them. In addition, large and/or protruding ears are one of the most common reasons kids get picked on. For these reasons, otoplasty is often a win-win option for kids with big ears.


before and after ear surgery - front view



before and after ear surgery - back view


Psychological Considerations

I recommend that children considering plastic surgery see a psychologist, to make sure they are mature enough and emotionally equipped to handle the process. It is very important that the child feels comfortable with the decision. I will conduct an evaluation of my own, and if I feel that the child has been unduly influenced by parents, peers, or anyone else, I will not move forward with surgery.

Again, ultimately the decision to have plastic surgery can only be made by the patient.

How Young Is Too Young?

The answer to this question depends on the individual child, in terms of both physical development and emotional maturity. However, the only two procedures I will perform on kids are otoplasty and rhinoplasty.

As previously mentioned, for otoplasty it may be appropriate to operate at a fairly young age.

For rhinoplasty, it is not a good idea to operate until the teenage years; as young as 15 for girls, depending on development, and as young as 16 for boys.

To learn how old a child needs to be to undergo procedures of the body, it’s best to consult with a general plastic surgeon.

If your child will be having plastic surgery, be sure to select a surgeon who is board certified in the appropriate discipline. For facial surgeries, this means a board certified facial plastic surgeon; for body procedures, a board certified plastic surgeon.


To learn more about how plastic surgery can help victims of bullying, contact my office today.