Your child probably has a celebrity that he raves about all the time, whether it's a movie star or a sports figure. While having someone like this can be healthy for kids, especially those who might lack parental role modeling, it can also have harmful effects if your child chooses a celebrity with less than stellar behavior. Understanding the impact a celebrity can have on your child's life is an important way to help him steer clear of making poor decisions just because someone famous does.
Teens who idolize a celebrity who doesn't give in to such pressures as weight and drugs will likely benefit from their obsession. If your child chooses someone who gives to charity, dresses appropriately, is on television or the news because of her good deeds and doesn't get caught drunk in public, the influence on your child is probably positive. The celebrity might motivate and inspire him to give back to his community, do well in school and stay out of trouble.
While a celebrity can have a good influence on your child, negative impacts are pretty likely, too. In fact, some teens are more likely to listen to the words of their favorite celebrities than their own parents, according to an article in "Renew" magazine by Barbara Theodosiou, founder of the Addict's Mom organization. Many celebrities don't make a secret of alcohol or drug abuse and the glamorization of dying due to an overdose in the media might make your child feel that using these substances is acceptable. Celebrities who are super skinny and always dressed to the nines can alter your child's self image and might contribute to an eating disorder or low self-esteem.
Finding Good Role Models
As a parent, you can influence your child by helping him determine what makes a good celebrity role model. It's fine to enjoy an actor's movies even if he engages in poor behavior outside of his film career. But discuss the consequences of the poor choices that a particular celebrity made, such as jail time or hefty fines. Emphasize the fact that celebrities might get more leeway from police or judges due to their fame and money. Instead, watch movies and sports games and pick out people who do good for others and use their fame for positive things, such as donating to charity or raising awareness for a particular disease.
If your teen suddenly starts wearing different clothes or acting secretive, his favorite celebrity might have already gotten to him. As a parent, it's important to talk to your child often and keep close tabs on his activities, says Theodosiou. This makes it easier to determine if something is off, such as the possibility of using drugs or engaging in promiscuous activities. If you think your child has already given in to a negative celebrity influence, talk to his pediatrician, other caregivers and school counselor about the steps you can take to put a stop to it.