Celebrities are everywhere: grinning from the covers of magazines in line at the grocery store, flickering on the TV screen during shows and advertisements or posting play-by-plays of their daily activities online. Kids and teens are exposed to celebrity culture as part of daily life, in many cases. Although celebrities undoubtedly play a role in influencing kids, parents should not underestimate their own effect. Positively managing the way celebrities influence your child is a key responsibility for parents.
Children, and especially teens, frequently look to celebrities for fashion cues, including clothing, hairstyle and makeup choices. Kids might fixate on a favorite celebrity or two, trying to emulate their look or lifestyle decisions, according to a 2002 article in "Psychology Today." Others might assume a general star-struck attitude, perusing celebrity magazines for ideas about preferred brands, behavioral idiosyncrasies or fitness tips.
Some teens resist being characterized as influenced by celebrity culture, naming their parents as prime factors in their worldview, according to a 2007 article on Howard University's website. Children might be impressed by a parent’s work ethic, sense of family responsibility or creative endeavors. Celebrity saturation could result in children and teens feeling repelled by the materialism, superficiality or privilege sometimes portrayed in media coverage. Although celebrities might appear sophisticated and glamorous, the morals and life values of parents might have a deeper effect on teens looking for meaning and identity as they develop. America’s Promise.org states that higher parental involvement can positively influence health choices and school success.
Parents who are themselves transfixed by celebrity culture might be sending the wrong message to their children. Reading celebrity magazines, watching reality TV or obsessing about appearance could reinforce some of the negative effects of celebrity culture. Being transparent about your own media consumption, such as acknowledging the fun in occasionally watching a low-grade reality TV show, could demystify the action so your actions don’t look hypocritical when lecturing about the evils of following celebrity culture. Conversely, parents can point to celebrities known for positive parenting, political involvement, social advocacy or enhancing the arts to support positive influences.
Celebrity influence can be positive; for example, teens might admire an athlete’s disciplined workout and approach to nutrition or an actor’s reputation for a driven work ethic and high performance standards. But emulating a celebrity can also lead to less-desirable choices, such as experimenting with drugs, according to the "Psychology Today" article. Celebrities can negatively affect a child’s body image, leading to unhealthy nutrition or fitness decisions, according to an Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences article, “The Impact of Celebrities on Adolescents’ Clothing Choices.” By the time children reach middle school they are readily influenced by their peers, according to Common Sense Media. Parents can help prevent negative influences of friends and classmates by observing relationships and looking for warning signs such as dramatic changes in clothing or attitudes about school or family life.
- Psychology Today: Fan Club Confessions: Teens Underestimate Influence of Celebrity
- Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences: The Impact of Celebrities on Adolescents’ Clothing Choices
- Family Education.com: Your Teen and Celebrity Role Models
- Common Sense Media.org: Why Media Role Models Matter
- Howard University: Teens Look Up to Parents, not Celebrities and Athletes as Role Models
- Princeton University: Media and Children's Aggression, Fear and Altruism
- America's Promise.org: Issue Brief: Parenting
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images