Before even hitting puberty or attending middle school, Samantha Shaw had plastic surgery. Good Morning America cameras followed the 7 year-old who lives in South Dakota with her mother Cammy as she underwent surgery to fix her oversized ears. The surgery pinned back both her “cup ears” and fixed a fold in her “lop ear.”

Cammy explained that the surgery was preventative to save her daughter from the bullying that often plagues kids through their childhood and adolescent years. But when asked about specific instants of bullying, Samantha said she hadn’t been teased. Her mother recounts both kids and adults calling her “monkey ears” and saying her lop ear is “gross.”

Samantha’s story is apparently not uncommon. According to The Huffington Post, “the number of teens and children getting plastic surgery has gone up 30 percent over the last decade, with more and more young people resorting to operations in order to avoid bullying.”

Children with abnormalities are more likely to be bullied and are less popular, says Dr. Steven Pearlman, who performed the surgery. He believes that rejection can impact their development of self-identity in a negative way.

But how is a 7 year-old’s self-identity affected when her mother consults a doctor and pays thousands to “fix” something that’s “wrong” with her? That communicates to her that she’s not beautiful as she is and that she should consider surgery to change whatever she or others perceive to be unattractive.

It’s a dangerous precedent to set. If she is later teased for having freckles or being overweight or too skinny—as kids at that age will most likely find something else to make fun of, might she look for other ways to change those things like she did her ears?

I remember begging my father incessantly for a doctor to fix bad feet, a product of ballet class, which I was teased mercilessly for. He never did. Finally, I realized that I was never going to be “perfect” and needed to just accept myself as I was.

When I did, I learned the things I was being bullied about were not that big a deal after all. I actually started to like my feet and when I painted my toenails, they even looked pretty.

That lesson was a defining moment in my development as I no longer needed people’s approval on my appearance. Teasing never bothered me the same way again. Now that I’m old enough and financially able to have surgery, I don’t think I need it.

Everyone that’s teased doesn’t have the same reaction that I did. But when parents go to a plastic surgeon to “fix” their child’s appearance, they are denying them the chance to grow, develop a tough skin and learn to love themselves as they are.

When asked if children should get plastic surgery to avoid bullying and the subsequent blow to their self-identity, Dr. Pearlman said: “Well, it depends where you draw the line. If it’s minor, if it’s cosmetic, absolutely not. But in my book and most of the medical community, the plastic surgery community, ears that stick out is not a cosmetic issue.” Do you agree with him?

In what cases is it okay for children to get cosmetic surgery? Is it different for abnormalities like “ears that stick out”? Are “ear tucks” acceptable no  matter the age? Is bullying a valid reason for child cosmetic surgery?

Check out the video below and discuss:

-Jessica C. Andrews

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