The Rise of Cyberbullying

A multi-author paper on the prevention of childhood obesity included a succinct paragraph of explanation:

Cross — sectional associations between obesity risk and bullying, social marginalization and poor academic performance have been documented in studies conducted in Canada, the USA and Sweden. Awareness of the stigma associated with obesity can lead to concerns about weight and fear of obesity even in children as young as 5 or 6.

A Canadian study of children of 11 to 16 years verified that overweight and obese teens were likely to be bullied verbally, physically, and relationally. Relational bullying includes psychological cruelty like withdrawing friendship and spreading lies and rumors that are meant to be harmful. Both boys and girls are victimized by these attacks.

The problem spans continents. Irish News journalist Fiona Dillon reported that even in relatively progressive Ireland, “A number of patients would report having horrible photos of them posted online.”

In the United States, a survey found that 41 percent of high school students saw obesity as the most frequent justification for teasing and bullying — higher even than sexual orientation at 38 percent.

Of course there are many effects, depending on the individual’s personality and history. The obvious ones are negative self-image, increased anxiety and depression, and suicidal thoughts. Bullied kids tend to do whatever is necessary to ditch physical education classes, or even skip school. They may fall behind in their academic studies, and frequently engage in unmonitored and dangerous weight-control strategies.

As if all that were not distressing enough, the ubiquitous Internet takes it to the next level — harassment that cannot be escaped by staying home. Jamie Lee Peterson wrote for,

Cyber-bullying assumes a number of different forms including threats, insults, gossip, rumors, impersonation, hacking into other people’s accounts or spreading someone else’s private or personal information without consent… Its anonymity sets cyber-bullying apart from more “traditional” victimization, but cyber-bullying is especially harmful because it reaches beyond the schoolyard and can potentially happen at any time.

The danger ratchets up a notch, or several. Some desperate kids carry weapons to school and others have even ended their own lives, including two girls who hanged themselves. All students, whether they are bullying victims or not, are advised to never publicize their names, addresses or phone numbers online, and to never, ever, share passwords.

Young people are also enjoined to keep the world livable by following a no-forward policy, by refusing to pass along cruel and embarrassing messages about others, and especially by declining to forward pictures.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Preventing Childhood Obesity — Evidence, Policy and Practice,”, January 2011
Source: “Obesity and Mental Health,”, March 2011
Source: “Irish teens weighing 22 stone on waiting list for obesity programme,”, 08/21/14
Source: “From the Schoolyard to Your Yard: Cyber-bullying Brings Victimization Home,”, undated
Photo credit: J_O_I_D on Visualhunt/CC BY

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources