Yale researcher turns to TikTok to reach teens who are bullied over weight

National

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The pandemic and the lack of activity for kids and teens has led to
more screen time. That also means more online bullying, and the most common topic is
weight.

Before the pandemic when children or teens suffered emotional distress they would be referred to professionals through pediatrician’s offices. The pandemic changed that with very little activity and much more screen time.

That’s why Yale child psychologist Janet Lydecker is pivoting in her approach. She is now using social media apps like TikTok to address and hopefully treat weight bullying. That can include teasing and body shaming on social media.

“We know that weight bullying is pretty common and that it has very negative consequences we see teens who are self harming or depressed thinking about suicide not to mention developing eating disorders,” says Lycecker, PhD who is the Director of the platform Yale Teen Power.

Lydecker’s trial and studies are aimed at treating the weight bullying before it becomes one of those more severe conditions. One tool on social media is reassuring messages about positive body image.
She creates these teen power doodle videos for TikTok

The facts are powerful – teens are most bullied about weight, two thirds of girls with obesity are bullied.

Some teens who are bullied develop eating disorders, others become depressed, they can even develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lydecker urges parents to talk to their kids who may not realize they are bullying. Weight bias is a common and very hurtful topic.

“Helping middle school and high schoolers know that it is really harmful that it’s not just funny or an easy joke that it can really hurt the person who’s being teased or bullied,” says Lydecker.

She wants teens to be empowered with this information.

“If there’s one person who takes the side of the victim of bullying then that makes all the difference so if you’re not completely alone that’s huge.”

The online approach isn’t the only new part of the Yale Teen Power platform. Researchers are also
approaching bullying as something that is actually treatable. They are currently looking for teen girls who have been bullied over weight for their study.

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