Living in a technological era, we have access to the tabloids more than ever before. There are television sets, magazine covers, Internet blogs, and movies screaming to be read and watched, and they are plastered with images of these tacky celebrities. When a life of parties, short-term relationships, drugs, and alcohol are leading celebrities like Britney, Paris, and Lindsay to spiral out of control, you would think that their lifestyle is not ideal. But, fans of these stars disagree. Now, in an age where we have more contact with celebrity gossip than we have ever had, we are faced with a question: what are the effects that superstars have on our youth? Celebrities influence fans to be destructively thin, put harmful substances in their bodies, and many parents are concerned with the overall content these celebrities are putting on television, in movies, and over the Internet. Pop culture idols need to think twice before making a poor decision or practicing awful morals because of their influence on their young fans and other people who may look up to them.
Based on a recent Newsweek poll, 77% of Americans believe that celebrities have too much of an influence on young girls. This effect is especially evident in their appearance and attitudes. One poll participant, a first grade teacher, even noticed her students using derogatory language, singing suggestive song lyrics, and even flirting with each other. With celebrities creating impossible standards of beauty, more and more young adults are feeling 'less confident, more angry, and more dissatisfied' with their looks (National Institute on Media and the Family). Based on a poll, 40% of nine and ten year-olds had tried losing weight and at age thirteen (Body Image and Gender Identity, 2002), 53% of girls were unhappy with their image (National Institute on Media and the Family). Now, this cannot all be blamed on the media, but with celebrities becoming thinner and thinner, much self-confidence is lost and images of television stars or models have been connected to body displeasure (National Institute on Media and the Family). Stars need to be concerned about their image because of the unpleasant fact that it causes young fans to strive to be unhealthily thin. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that eating disorders affect more than five million Americans a year, with disorders usually beginning in the teens or as early as eight. Celebrities should stay at a safe weight to insure their health and the effects their weight has in influencing their younger viewers.
Based on the latest Kaiser Family Foundation survey, two in every three parents feel that their children are being exposed to too much inappropriate content in the media. Where does this concern come from? 34% of parents stated that they believe that television contain the most inappropriate content. With television shows today including sexual content, violence, and adult language, children are exposed to unsuitable matter for their ages. Since many parents work and are not always at home, kids have access to shows, movies, and the internet blogs that can tell them things that should be left for parents to explain. There is no possible way to end this media frenzy, but experts say that 'attentive parents, strong teachers and nice friends are an excellent counterbalance,' (Newsweek, 2007) to pop culture garbage. Stars need to be more aware of their images because some are allowing younger fans content that many parents do not want their child seeing.
Celebrities do not only have a negative impact on the looks and personalities of fans, but also in their health. With superstars like Kate Moss taking insane amounts of drugs, Amy Winehouse checking into rehab again, and movie stars lighting up their cigarettes on screen, there has to be some effect on their admirers. 88% to 92% of the top twenty-five box office hits since 1995 have contained tobacco use. Celebrities have glamorized smoking in the media and are setting an example for supporters everywhere that it is acceptable to smoke. Pop culture icons need to support a drug free program instead of using harmful substances. Programs like Above the Influence, run by the Office of National Drug Protection, use the media for good instead of making drugs and alcohol seems acceptable to use. Stars should make it a goal to refrain from using drugs and drinking excessive amounts of booze because it sends a message to fans that a life of drugs and alcohol is a satisfactory way to live.
Celebrities need to change the way they act and how they are viewed. Their actions have more of an effect on us then many people believe they have. Thin, addicted celebrities are changing the way many young fans think and act. Celebrities need to change these horrible habits now and realize that they need to be more concerned with themselves and with their portrayal in the media.
Bergsma, PhD., Linda. "Can Media Literacy Impact Youth Smoking?." Blowing Smoke. Summer 2001. Center for Media Literacy. 25 Jan. 2009
Celebrities who promote ethical behavior and make responsible personal decisions can have a positive effect on teenagers. Some promote social justice and participate in relief efforts when disasters strike. As long as a teenager doesn't develop an unhealthy obsession with a celebrity or experience delusions of grandeur -- expecting to live like a celebrity -- an interest in movie stars or famous athletes could have some advantages.
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Celebrities can have a positive effect on teenagers by setting a good example of how to live and act. For example, some are involved in humanitarian efforts such as fighting social injustices, raising money for sick or injured people, supporting relief efforts when extreme weather damages a community, contributing financially to hospitals or hosting free events to support philanthropic efforts. Celebrities who show integrity in their personal and professional lives, such as obeying the laws and honoring their relationships, are positive role models for teenagers.
Some celebrities promote a positive self-image and help teenagers with self-esteem issues. For example, teen girls often follow celebrities they want to emulate, says psychologist John Grohol, founder of the PsychCentral website. As long as teenagers don't become obsessed with celebrities, a healthy respect could lead to increased or improved self-esteem. For example, a teenager might develop positive hygiene habits, avoid excessive junk food or wear a stylish hairstyle to look more like a specific celebrity.
Celebrities, movies stars, sports figures, pop culture, TV shows and movies are all part of the entertainment industry. Following a celebrity and keeping up with the industry is a fun hobby for many teenagers. Teens who follow celebrities for entertainment purposes generally have extroverted personalities, according to clinical pharmacist and medical writer Jennifer Gibson on the BrainBlogger website. Extroverted teens often engage in harmless celebrity-worship behaviors, such as cutting images out of magazines, researching famous people on TV or the Internet or reading biographies about their lives. As long as a teenager pursues other interests too, a celebrity-following hobby is normal.
Celebrities can have a positive effect in teenagers' lives when they promote education and cultural awareness. Celebrities who complete college coursework, have an interest in politics, write books, study literature, travel abroad or engage in debates showcase their intellectual skills. They teach teenagers that it's not just about what's on the outside -- it's what's on the inside that really matters. Famous athletes who perform eloquent interviews and have college degrees teach teenagers that it pays to stay in school. Movie stars who speak at college graduations or host effective live interviews show teenagers that it takes more than good looks to make it in the real world -- brains count too.
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