Childhood bullying affects millions of children all over the world every year. According to the U.S National Center for Educational Statistics, one out of every five students report being bullied .
A major reason for being a victim of childhood bullying is physical appearance. Wearing visual aids such as glasses can increase a child’s risk of being bullied. A study published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science shows that kids who wore glasses or eye patches have a one-third greater risk of being victims of physical or verbal abuse .
Children with glasses have been the targets of nearly every type of bullying you can imagine, from being called “four-eyes” to being beat up. This is often because glasses are not perceived as an attractive accessory, making children who wear them bully magnets.
Being bullied at school can be a damaging experience for children . Depending on the nature or severity of the bullying, a victim may experience the following such as:
Being the victim of bullying also increases the chances that a child will become a bully themselves . Their experience of being bullied may cause them to start lashing out at other children.
Kids who wear glasses may already find it more challenging to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities. Being the victim of bullying may lead to further social withdrawal and a loss of motivation to involve themselves in group activities. As the myopia epidemic continues to grow across the world, we may also expect to see an increase in bullying.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways a parent can prevent their child from experiencing bullying due to vision problems. Among them:
As a parent, you can openly communicate with your child on the resources available and the importance of seeking help if they are being bullied. Teach your child to identify signs and nature of bullying and reassure them of your support if bullied. If your child is starting out with wearing glasses, help them feel confident by allowing them to pick the styles they love!
Not all victims of bullying know how to ask for help. Learning to recognise warning signs is an important step in taking action against bullying. Warning signs of bullying may include unusual changes in your child’s emotions, sudden loss of interest in schoolwork, self-destructive behaviours or unexplained torn clothing or bruises. Your child may also display fear around being involved in group projects or going to school.
Young children who are exposed to excessive screen time are more likely to be victims of cyberbullying and suffer from depression or other mental health issues. Encouraging responsible use of technology such as reducing screen time not only helps to protect your child’s eyes, but also limits cyberbullying exposure.
While Lasik is rarely a suitable option for young children, parents can consider other alternatives to glasses such as contact lenses. Here are two types to consider:
Soft contact lenses can be prescribed to children who are mature enough to take proper care and learn how to use them. Children who are regularly involved in sports or outdoor activities can often benefit from contact lenses. Despite the distinct advantages offered, these lenses come with definite risks. Contact lens prescriptions should be updated every year, and yearly follow-up appointments are recommended or as advised by your eye care specialist.
Ortho-K custom-designed gas permeable contact lenses have been an increasingly popular choice of myopia control intervention for children in recent years. Wearing ortho-K lenses overnight can correct vision defects by temporarily reshaping the cornea. However, not every child can comfortably or safely use these contacts. It is always best to consult with your eye care professional to assess your child’s needs and discuss any possible risks.
It is sadly not uncommon for children wearing glasses to be more susceptible to bullying. Bullying can negatively impact kids and have a lasting impact on their emotional, social and physical well-being. Educating your child on the nature of bullying, encouraging them to seek help, and exploring alternatives to glasses are a few possible ways to support your children.
 Jeremy Horwood, Andrea Waylen, David Herrick, Cathy Williams, Dieter Wolke; Common Visual Defects and Peer Victimization in Children. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2005;46(4):1177-1181. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.04-0597.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2017. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report–Surveillance Summaries 2018; 67(SS08.. Available from https:// www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2017/ ss6708.pdf.
 Slonje, R., Smith, P. K., & Frisén, A. (2013). The nature of cyberbullying, and strategies for prevention. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(1), 26–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2012.05.024
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