Monday, September 26, 2011

Weight and Bullying

Bullying is increasingly a major concern of parents, teachers, and school administrators. Kids may be bullied for a variety of reasons - or for no real reason at all. Weight-related bullying is not a new phenomenon. With all the current media attention to childhood obesity, this type of bullying seems to be increasing among students of all ages.

What we know

  • Being overweight can increase the chances of a child being bullied: Several recent studies have confirmed that obese children were twice as likely to be bullied than other kids.
  • Bullying can take a toll on a child’s physical and mental health: Medical experts say that being bullied can have serious effects on both physical and emotional well-being.
  • A student’s academic performance may also be affected by bullying: A 2011 study found that bullying victims often show a long-lasting decrease in grade point averages.

What parents can do

1: Talk to your children about all types of bullying.

  • Children are often afraid to talk about being bullying by their peers. They may be especially embarrassed if they already feel shamed or blamed about their weight.
  • Watch for signs that your child may be dealing with bullies, like problems at school or with previous friends. Keep asking and talking whenever you are concerned.

2: Take a zero-tolerance policy on weight-related teasing at home.

  • Teasing - or any negative comments - about a child’s weight can have long-lasting effects on self-esteem. They may even be the first step toward an eating disorder.
  • If you have concerns about a child’s health status, discuss them privately with your health care provider first. Make appropriate lifestyle changes for the whole family.

3: Help your school understand weight-related bullying.

  • If a child is bullied at school, find out who has responsibility for bullying issues in the district. Meet with them as soon as possible and keep a record of your meetings.
  • Request that weight issues be included in your district’s anti-bullying education. The Yale Rudd Center has useful materials at

4: Help all children enjoy Health at Every Size®.

  • Children of all shapes, sizes, and weights benefit from delicious nutrition and fun fitness. At home and school, encourage everyone to eat smarter and move more.
  • For more about Health at Every Size® for children, download Everybody in Schools Curriculum Unit Resource Kit