Parents vs. Celebrities as Role Models

In a celebrity obsessed culture it's easy to see how the famous few can easily become role models for children. While parents are typically the first adults to serve as models in most kids' lives, as children age a well-known actor, sports figure or musician can sometimes replace mom or dad as a primary figure.

First Role Models

From an early age, kids are taking note of what goes on around them. According to the child-development website Kids Health, even young children are watching and learning from their parents, taking cues from mom or dad's behaviors 1. This makes parents the first role models that kids have. As your child watches and learns from you, it becomes vital that you act in ways to show your child how you want him to act. For example, act in a kind, friendly and honest way to show your child an appropriate way to treat others.

Celebrity Role Models

As kids age, they begin to take notice of mass media. In doing this, they are bombarded with an array of celebrities,which include:

  • actors
  • musicians
  • pop stars
  • dancers
  • athletes
  • comedians
  • for a start

Although it's unlikely that your teetering toddler will pick up on cues and behaviors from a well-known musical sensation, your preschool-aged child, middle school-aged child or your teen may look to a celebrity as a role model instead of mom or dad 3. The more exposure your child has to celebrities and the media the more likely she is to look to these figures as role models.

Negative Role Models

Although parents and celebrities can quickly turn into negative role models, famous figures often engage in behaviors that are bad -- in the extreme. One way that celebrities may negatively influence a child's behaviors is through body image. According to the U.S. Office on Women's Health, Girls Health website one or two of every 100 students have some form of an eating disorder 4. Ultra-skinny celebrity actresses and fashion models serve to propagate the notion, especially to an impressionable child, that a gaunt frame is desirable. Likewise, celebrity role models may glamorize damaging and destructive behaviors such as drinking alcohol, engaging in drug use or promiscuous behavior 3.

Positive Role Models

Although it's tempting to think that the only positive role models out there are mom and dad, celebrities can also take on this task. While children can directly watch a parent for ideas on how to behave, values to accept and even goals to set such as a career or educational path, they can use a more second-hand type of way to learn from famous figures. Through positive stories in the media or targeted public service campaigns, celebrities can influence kids on almost any topic from education to sports (and everything in between), Some organizations even use the idea of celebrity role models to get their message out to kids 3. For example, the Stomp Out Bullying campaign uses celebrities that are well-known to children and teens such as Emily Osment, Lance Bass, Demi Lovato and Hot Chelle Rae to raise awareness and influence positive behaviors 5.