Source: Sherman Publications

It’s All About the Kids: a column by Dr. Janet McPeek
The influence of celebrities on today’s youth

June 26, 2013

Some of the world’s top young celebrities have been making headlines recently, but unfortunately it has been for all of the wrong reasons. The once ultra-popular Justin Bieber was booed at the Billboard Music Awards for a rash of bad behavior. Actress Amanda Bynes exhibited bizarre behavior after being arrested on a drug charge. Miley Cyrus continues to rebel against her once wholesome image as Disney TV character Hannah Montana. And Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris, sadly attempted suicide in an apparent cry for help.

Now that school is out and summer is here, kids will have more time to follow their favorite celebrities’ every move via the Internet or Twitter. They will go to concerts, listen to music and see summer movie blockbusters featuring today’s popular young singers, actors and athletes.

There is no denying that young celebrities have a big influence on children and teens. Many kids consider them role models who achieved fame and fortune at a young age. Young people copy these pop-culture icons’ hairstyles and clothing, read their Tweets and view their Instagram postings. We cannot rely on celebrities to understand or admit to the huge impact they have on children and teens. If they did fully recognize the influential power they have, perhaps they would be more likely to practice responsible behavior at all times.

Unfortunately, kids are prone to imitate the bad conduct of celebrities and consider it acceptable.

That is why it is important for parents to offer guidance. Stay involved in your child’s life so that you can help suppress the negative influences of certain celebrities. You don’t have to diminish the celebrity’s talent or insist that your child stop listening to their music or going to their movies. Instead, offer options and direction. Talk to them about maintaining balance in their lives. While it is okay for kids to keep up with what their favorite celebrities are doing, remind them there are important events, activities and people in their own immediate lives that impact them every day. Those are the things that should matter the most.

The other lesson learned here is that bad things can happen to anyone — even the rich and famous. Have a conversation with your children about how a celebrity can go from a high point to the lowest point. Remind them about the importance of maintaining a good reputation and making good decisions.

Of course, not all young celebrities go astray. Some maintain a reasonable life outside of the spotlight and do good things for others. Those are the celebrities that we should encourage kids to emulate — the ones that establish non-profit organizations and volunteer their time to help the less fortunate. Wouldn’t it be nice to read more of these positive headlines in the tabloids as we stand in line at the grocery store?