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Tuesday, 16 September 2014 12:55

Stigmatization Over Obesity: Cyber-Bullying is the New Weapon

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Throughout history, stigma of the disease has brought more sufferings to people than the disease itself. Devastating diseases like TB, leprosy, plague and in recent times HIV are the bitter examples.

The recent most addition to this sad and bad list is obesity. Although officially declared as a disease by American Medical Association and recognized by highest health icons like World Health Organization (of UNO) as one the most serious 'health hazards of 21st century,' obesity is still one of the common reasons youth are bullied for. And regrettably, this totally absurd type of victimization continues to be overlooked in media and public.

Children living in today's cyber age spend a great amount of their time on Internet. An indeed depressing aspect of cyber age is that every other day we hear some news of children being targeted by online predators for one reason or the other. Sadly this is happening at a constantly increasing rate.

Report of a recent survey showed that 41 percent of high school students perceived body weight as the primary reason for teasing and bullying and more than 75% of the students participating in the survey opinioned that they commonly saw overweight students being made fun of and teased in different ways.

Nobody would disagree that the consequences of weight-based teasing and bullying are numerous and can be serious. Youth who are bullied are very likely to isolate and suffer from psychological, emotional and physical health problems.

Bullying on social websites may come in different forms like threats, insults or spreading rumors about someone else's private life. Peers are the commonest culprits but adults and strangers are no exception.

A more devastating aspect of cyber-bullying that it is not confined to schools only but can happen at any time, creating a more distressing situation in which the poor victim finds no escape and a constant feeling of insecurity and fear haunts him or her all the time!

Hats off to Attorney General of Pennsylvania who pioneered to launch a program aimed at securing children's safety against cyber bullying. As part of this effort, his office started a new Internet safety program called "Operation Safe Surf," designed to help educate kids, parents and schools about the importance of being safe online. Although the program focuses mainly on sexual predators, it's a daring step against a rising menace. Our request is to include bullying over obesity too in his agenda.

I think it is lack of awareness about obesity that the problem is not coming up on radar screen of most non-medical authorities. It is high time to realize that obesity is a well-defined disease having serious consequences if left untreated and all efforts should be made to safeguard the dignity of the people affected by it.

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