Is Cosmetic Surgery the Answer to Bullying?

Is plastic surgery the answer for kids?

April 12, 2011, 11:00 AM

April 14, 2011— -- Samantha Shaw will soon be able to enjoy putting her hair up and wearing earrings, two things she never wanted to do a week ago.

Samantha just had otoplasty, commonly known as "pinning back" the ears. Before her surgery, her protruding ears made her the target of lots of hurtful questions by both children and adults.

Dr. Steven Pearlman, Samantha's New York City-based plastic surgeon, said the two-and-a-half hour surgery went very well.

There are some residual black and blue marks near the incisions, but that's to be expected, Pearlman said. For the next few months, Samantha will have to wear a headband to protect her ears.

"Her ears look great," said Pearlman. "Throughout the checkup after surgery and when she got the bandages off, there wasn't a peep or a tear out of her."

Her mother, Cami Roselles, said it was a nerve-racking experience, since Samantha had never had surgery before. The anesthesia, she said, made her daughter sick.

But all that was forgotten as the bandages came off and Samantha got a glimpse of her new ears for the first time.

She was asked how they looked. "Good," she said.

Samantha is just one of an increasing number of children having cosmetic surgery. That number, in fact, has gone up nearly 30 percent over the past decade, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Does Plastic Surgery Send the Wrong Message?

Experts believe one major reason is a rise in the level of bullying. Bullying, they say, can cause victims to become depressed. Eventually, they may lash out and start to have problems academically.

Dr. Frederick Lukash, a plastic surgeon who has performed a number of procedures on children says he can often tell how profound an impact bullying has by asking questions and getting his prospective patients to draw pictures during consultations.

"[One patient's] drawings showed exaggerated ears while other kids had normal ears. I could tell there were some deep-seated issues," Lukash said.

Parents and clinicians say bullying has become more intense because of the Internet and social media sites like Facebook.

But others say plastic surgery isn't the answer to bullying.

"Changing appearance is not the solution," said Cheryl Rode, director of clinical operations at the San Diego Center for Children. "We never want to hold the victim responsible for the bullying."

Rode said the responsibility must lie with schools and other places where children are as well as with society.

"It is our responsibility on a national level, not the responsibility of parents of victims to make change happen."

Pearlman says Samantha's ears will look just like any other child's as soon as the headband comes off. After that, she won't have to endure the taunting questions anymore, which is a relief to Roselles.

"I don't want her to be teased and bullied and then have her lash out and treat people the way she's being treated.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events