Dean McDermott was forced to have a difficult conversation with his 12-year-old son, Liam, after he experienced body shaming online.
Talking on his podcast, Daddy Issues, Dean revealed his son (who he shares with wife Tori Spelling) approached him with a disturbing question. Liam had noticed that someone left him a comment calling him “obese” and he wanted to know if he was.
"So [Tori] did this post about, you know, having a snack with the family, and all the moms got up in arms. 'You feed your kids this? … No wonder they’re obese,'" Dean explained. "So, Liam saw this. He saw it on my phone and he took me aside, and he said, 'Dad, am I obese?' And I said, 'Dude, no. You are not obese.'"
He explained to Liam that the family and himself are kind of famous and that unfortunately, with that comes trolls saying nasty things on social media to people they don’t know. Then he offered up some advice.
"I took him aside, and I said, 'Look, you know what? People are going to say horrible things,'" he said. "'We’re in the spotlight, Mom and Dad. People know who you are, and people are going to say nasty things. So, you can fire back at them, or you can stop and think and send them some love.' So I said, 'We can get mad about this, or we can take the high road, send them some love because they’re hurting.’ Liam’s 12, going on 30. So, you know, he really got it."
As for Liam’s weight, he told him to remember the way his 20-year-old half-brother, Jack, who McDermott shares with ex-wife Mary Jo Eustace, had a growth spurt.
"I said, 'Look at your brother, Jack. Your brother, Jack is 6-foot-4, and he’s, like, 170 [lbs],'" he said. "'He’s, like, beautiful, tall and thin, and he went through a phase where he wasn’t.' I said, 'Remember your brother, Jack, when he went away to Canada and came back two months and he grew a foot?’ I said, ‘It’s in your DNA. Look at that. You’re not obese. You’re gonna sprout out, and you’re big and beautiful. You’re fantastic."
Nicole Avena, PhD., and Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, told Personal Space that many kids are dealing with online shaming.
“Social media and having an online presence is something that many kids, not just celebrities, have to manage in our digitally-based world," she said. "Sharing about experiences and connecting online can be great, but it can also lead to unrealistic self-comparisons, hurtful comments, and feelings of being isolated. Making public comments about another person’s body weight is never appropriate. When young girls and boys are exposed to body shaming online, it can be very hurtful, and it isn’t as easy shrug-off as it might be for adults."
Boys are victims too, Dr. Avena added, and there's a particular downside to that.
"Boys are not immune to this, and often aren’t as forthcoming about how such negative comments might make them feel," she said, adding,"It is important that parents talk to their children about how these types of comments about another person are not appropriate, and how people’s bodies change as they age and begin to develop at different rates. It is an ongoing conversation that parents need to have with their children regularly to ensure that they are not taking these comments to heart. Don’t just say 'Stop it, you aren’t fat' and leave it at that. When it comes to comments about weight, remind your children that you love them no matter what their weight is, and you would be the first person to step in if there was something going on that was negatively impacting their health. It also helps to remind them that the person making negative comments is not a doctor, might even be a complete stranger, and is hiding behind the anonymity of the internet."
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