In making effort to bringing up our children in the best way we can, we are often meet with different challenges hindering our desire to do our part perfectly as we would wish to. Take for example the problem of childhood obesity stigma. This is quite an uphill task for parents who are not most of the time around their children when they are being harassed by their mates in schools or in the social media platform. Childhood obesity stigma is destroying our children causing them to feel secluded, alone and helpless. We have a duty as parents to find out if our children are being bullied in whichever way to help them maintain their self-esteem. In today’s society body weight is among the common reasons why young people are harassed and while this is taking place and our children are being bullied, victimization of overweight youth continues to be ignored by the media, research and policy discussions. Recent studies indicated that more and more student are being teased in a mean way or during the physical activity classes, called names and being made fun of because of their overweight problem.
I want to pose and ask, is overweight a health condition like any other? Why bully? The consequences of weight-based teasing and bullying are many and can be severe. Overweight youth who are teased and bullied are vulnerable to social, psychological, emotional and physical health impairments which may include:
- Increased risk of depression and anxiety
- Negative body image
- Suicidal thoughts
- Avoiding gym class
- Skipping school
- Academic impairment
- Unhealthy weight control
- Binge-eating behaviors
- Reduced physical activity
- Increased body mass index (BMI)
There is an emerging trend of weight related victimization much less known called cyber bullying causing a lot of devastating results among young people. Let’s take a moment to discuss cyber bullying.
This is the deliberate, attempt to inflict injury or discomfort of another person through electronic means. For adolescents, estimates of cyber victims range from 4-72 percent. Cyber-bullying takes a number of different forms including threats, insults, gossip, rumors, impersonation, hacking into other people’s accounts or spreading someone else’s private or personal information without consent. Peers are not the only perpetrators. In fact, youth report being bullied by adults and siblings, and 48 to 79 percent have been bullied by strangers or individuals they have never met in person.
Its anonymity sets cyber-bullying apart from more “traditional” victimization, but cyber-bullying is especially harmful because it penetrates beyond the school boundary and can possibly happens anyone at any time. The majority (85 percent) of cyber-bullying happens at home, but these experiences may also affect children at school. What may be frustrating is that often parents are largely unaware of their children’s roles as cyber-bullies or victims.
Youth who are cyber-bullied may be especially vulnerable to consequences that differ from more traditional forms of bullying. These include weapon-carrying at school, low caregiver-adolescent connectedness, headaches, sleeping difficulties, sexual solicitation, social anxiety and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. However, it is unclear if these problems instigate or result from the cyber-bullying.
Up to now very little research has been done about cyber-bullying specifically toward children affected by obesity. However the high rates of youth who report witnessing and experiencing weight-based teasing, it is likely that many children affected by obesity are victims of cyber-bullying. Devastating stories of two girls who hung themselves have recently circulated in the media. Megan a 13-year-old Missouri girl who struggled with her weight, experienced cyber-bullying on MySpace and was called “fat” and “slut” by someone posing as another person. Celina, an 11-year-old Florida girl, experienced cyber-bullying via text messages from classmates who jeered at her weight and race.
Like I had said we all have a duty to care for our children and so it is important to ensure that weight-based cyber-bullying is on the radar of parents. Parents can be powerful change-agents in bringing this issue to the attention of schools, and especially to help protect their own children from becoming victims of cyber-bullying. Parents can also communicate the following messages to their children to help prevent cyber-bullying, and to react appropriately if it occurs:
- Never share or post your private/personal information (name, address, phone number).
- Do not share your passwords with anyone, not even friends.
- When you see a picture, Email or message that may be hurtful, embarrassing or cruel, delete it do not forward it.
- If you are the victim of cyber-bullying, do not retaliate.
- Record the message and details as best as you can.
- Then, delete it, block the bully, sign-off or exit the Web site and tell an adult.
There are many opportunities for overweight youth to be cyber-bullied. Teens use the Internet and send/receive text messages significantly more than any other age group, with 93 percent using the Internet and 73 percent using social networking Web sites – most often Facebook and MySpace.
Three-fourths of teens own a cell phone, and on average, teens send/receive 2,539-4,050 texts per month. This is concerning given that the Internet and cell phones are the primary places where cyber-bullying occurs.
Monitoring – Cyber bullies and victims spend more time on computers and report less monitoring than youth who are not involved in cyber-bullying. Regulate the time and access your child has to the Internet. Set boundaries on usage and the types of Web sites or services your child is allowed to visit.
Familiarizing – Parents should try to understand cyber media and Internet safety. Share this information with your child to help them understand potential dangers.
Accountability – Ask your child about Web sites, activities and communications they accesses. Set-up your own pages to understand these sites and keep your child accountable.
Communication – It is estimated nine out of 10 children do not tell their parents or an adult when something mean or hurtful happens to them online. Some youth are afraid that they will lose their Internet or phone privileges, or that the bullying will get worse. To keep the dialogue open, make sure that your child knows that you are there to help.
Education – Work with schools to provide education about privacy and safety on the Web, or media literacy programs to teach youth how to be more intelligent, critical consumers of Web-based services and information.
If your child has been a victim of cyber-bullying:
- Comfort your child, do not blame them.
- Record the details of the encounter.
- Form a plan to avoid future occurrences.
- If the problem escalates, safety is threatened, or it does not stop, legal action may be necessary.
- Seek for help at AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center under Doctor Akoury’s care she will help you and your children the most natural way while focusing on Neuroendocrine Restoration (NER) to reinstate normality through realization of the oneness of Spirit, Mind, and Body, Unifying the threesome into ONE