Beware of This Type of Bullying as Teens Returns to School

School Lunch

Photoshop is not to blame for this new display of body insecurity.  

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There’s a new kind of bullying on the block. Rumors, threats, exclusion, and the lot have recently been accompanied by an equally dangerous (but less overt) method of tearing other people down: body shame bullying.

Body shaming can affect anyone—regardless of gender or weight—and it’s been observed as a growing trend manifesting in school cafeterias.

So what does this mean exactly? Kids and teens are pressuring one another to skip lunch or eat much less food than they want. With judgmental looks and nasty comments, students intentionally make their peers feel ashamed by how much they eat, leading some kids to go so far as to buy lunch and then throw it away.    

In a recent survey of over 5,000 Canadian middle and high school students, researchers found that tweens and teens who reported being bullied were more likely to skip meals. The bullying took place online or in-person. As scientists have previously linked bullying with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, it’s not safe to brush off an occasional meal pass as an isolated incident; it’s likely to become a repeated self-destructive behavior.

To help combat this form of bullying, researchers suggest that schools prohibit students from hanging out in the cafeteria if they’re not eating, requiring parent permission forms if a student wants to skip lunch, and simply asking students what they ate for lunch, which may encourage them to discuss the issue.

Urge your teen to check out this must-read feature that explains why fitting in isn’t all it’s cracked up to be