Last Friday, The View dedicated an entire show to plastic surgery. In particular, they featured a segment with a 15-year-old girl who needed a breast reduction. In addition, she believed that she also needed liposuction, because, despite working out, she couldn’t get rid of some fat around her stomach. Her mother, concerned that she might develop an eating disorder in trying to lose the weight, okayed the liposuction. What particularly struck a cord was how the show handled the segment (in addition to Mom allowing her young daughter to go under the knife for liposuction!):
• There was no talk about the considerations and consequences of having plastic surgery at a young age or a psychologist to offer insight, for example, on how to tell if a child is psychologically ready for surgery. None of the co-hosts mentioned the real risks of plastic surgery and that some surgeries—up to 20 percent—need to be revised.
• No dialogue of the dangers of kids focusing so much on appearance. Instead of getting liposuction to prevent an eating disorder, perhaps it would be more helpful to avoid emphasizing appearance and altering one’s body to fit an unattainable ideal. Importantly, eating disorders occur because of a complex combination of contributing factors, including genetics, certain personality traits and environment.
• Teasing was glossed over. Granted this show was exclusively about plastic surgery, but what does this teach kids who’re currently being teased over their appearance? That plastic surgery is indeed a panacea; that if you get teased all it takes to make things better is to change your looks? Instead, let’s have a few words about teaching teens to stand up to bullies and be confident without having to tweak their bodies.
You can see a clip of the segment here.
Plastic Surgery and Teens
KidsHealth explains that teens typically seek plastic surgery for different reasons when compared with adults, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS): “Teens view plastic surgery as a way to fit in and look acceptable to friends and peers.”
But, getting surgery just to fit in can send the wrong message. Adolescent counselor Janice Styer told MSNBC:
“In working with adolescent females I see this as just another quick fix. The thing that bugs me is the lack of coping skills we’re giving kids. We’re saying, ‘If you can’t meet the expectations of society, just get surgery.’”
Here’s an excerpt from the same article on a girl’s reaction after having breast augmentation surgery:
“[The surgery] has made me feel better. Now I have more self-confidence. When I go out … I’m not afraid of my fake padding falling out. I feel like I can look at myself and say, ‘I’m really pretty.’ Before, something seemed like it was missing. Now there’s nothing missing.”
Is she saving for another surgery?
“Not now,” says Powers [who had the surgery], “but once you have your first surgery it’s like a huge open door. You do see how easy it is to fix something.”
US News & World Report provides insight on how to tell when it’s appropriate for teens to have surgery. President of the ASPS Richard D’Amico said the following:
“We also have to distinguish between procedures that are purely cosmetic and those that are reconstructive. Several factors are important in deciding when and for whom surgery is appropriate: an ability to understand the procedure; that the desire for surgery does not reflect what a parent, friend, or boyfriend desires; and that expectations are realistic.”
“If the teenager believes that if only she got her nose done, she would no longer be ostracized, then I’d refer her for counseling.”
So, it’s vital to talk to kids about why they want the surgery. And ultimately, let’s work on cultivating intelligence and psychological health. Forget the hard bodies and physical perfection and tell your kids there’s so much more to them than their appearance.