Today in doooooooooyyyyyyyyy, two new studies have found that kids with health issues are common targets of bullying. I mean, that's nothing new. Kids are dicks, and bullying has never been more in the forefront of the public consciousness than it is right now. But the numbers in these studies (though, admittedly, self-reported, so take them with as much salt as you like) are pretty fucked up.
A study by Dr. Eyal Shemesh of New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center found that 32% of kids with allergies reported being the victims of bullying, including being physically attacked with the food that could kill them:
Being victimized due specifically to food allergies accounted for most of these cases, with 32% of the food allergic kids and about 25% of their parents reporting such bullying.
Almost all the bullies were classmates (80%), and most bullying happened at school (60%).
The most common form was teasing (42%), followed by waving the allergen in front of the child (30%).
Notably, 12% had been forced to touch the food they are allergic to and 10% had food thrown at them.
My god, kids are dumb. Like, I get that it's totally hilarious to hide some peanuts in Chad's sandwich because of his devastating and deadly nut sensitivity, but at what point does that stop being bullying and start qualifying as attempted murder? I mean, I've seen My Girl. I know not to hold Macauley Culkin down and force him to eat bees, because I am not a sociopath and I do not want to go to kid-jail. Allergies are a disability that might not read as a disability—I doubt these supposed bullies would mock a quadriplegic kid so readily and publicly—but it still fucking sucks. Mocking someone for a difference that already limits and complicates their life doesn't make you stronger, it makes you a dick.
But I suppose as long as our culture supports systemic bullying by actual adults, we can't expect dumb-ass kids to know better.
Speaking of adults and bullying and exploiting the less-powerful, the fat-kid study is almost (or more-than-almost?) worse. A survey of 361 teenagers at weight loss camps found that 64% have experienced bullying. And many of those kids, the study observed, were actually in the "normal" weight range. Not particularly surprising, I suppose—our country currently hosts a billion-dollar industry based on triggering anxiety in "normal"-sized people by telling them they're fat. Plus, the "normal" kids who reported bullying were former fat kids who had lost significant amounts of weight. And once a fat kid, always a fat kid.
But the more troubling news is just who is doing the bullying here.
The most common perpetrators were:
Peers: 92% Friends: 70% Physical education teachers or sport coaches: 42% Parents: 37% Teachers: 27%
While acknowledging that some of the adults may have been well-meaning, the researchers pointed out that this can still be extremely damaging.
"For those youth who are targets of weight-based victimization at school and at home, healthcare providers may be among their only remaining allies," they noted.
"Thus, it can be especially helpful for providers to promote adaptive coping strategies (e.g., positive self-talk, social support, problem-focused coping) during patient visits with youth who are targets of weight-based victimization."
Hey, fellow adults. Parents and teachers and coaches. Can we just rap, for a minute, like bros, and agree that maybe we should cut this shit out? You cannot shame or bully people for their own good—especially children. No matter how fat or stupid or allergic or clumsy or forgetful or awkward they are, no kids should have to feel like they have "no allies" outside of the doctor's office. And if you disagree with that, uuuuugh, go eat bees or something.
Photo credit: godfer / Stockfresh.