CBC RADIO INTERVIEW: Kids and the Cult of Celebrity

by Samantha on May 1, 2013

Bieber Fans

There’s no way around it, celebrity culture is everywhere. It’s no surprise, then, that our kids are affected by the latest actions of some of their favourite stars. This would be fine if the object of our kids’ affection was one that we thought was a positive role model. The reality is, though, that many of our children’s idols are less-than-stellar examples of how one should behave. From Justin Bieber to Miley Cyrus, our kids are looking up to these celebrities while they themselves travel through both the ups and downs of growing up. Sometimes the behaviour displayed by their role models is exemplary. Other times - not so much. How then, do we make sure that our kids remember the values that we have taught them in the face of less-than-perfect celebrity conduct?

I was recently asked to return to the CBC Radio Fresh Air program to provide my perspective on this topic. The full interview can be found here:

CBC Radio Fresh Air Interview: Kids and the Culture of Celebrity

I’ve also put together some of the general questions asked, as well as my perspective, below.

1. What kinds of celebrities are we talking about?

Lindsay Lohan the obvious one, but also others that have been surprising: Miley Cyrus (Hanna Montana), Justin Bieber, Britney Spears – the problem is that kids have grown up with many of these child stars and have seen them evolve into adults with questionable behaviour. Now, the same fans are following and emulating them – not a good thing.

2. Celebrity culture is nothing new—as a parent, why should I care?

As a parent, how can we NOT care? Celebrity culture and their lifestyles are everywhere, particularly in this digital age. Media and digital technology make it so much easier for kids to access information anywhere, anytime – often without their parent’s knowledge. For this reason alone, we as parents need to be on top of what’s going on in the celebrity world (not only teen celebs) and countering it with our own values and lessons.

3. But just how much influence can celebrities have on young people?

So much more than any of us would imagine. Like us, our kids are victims of our celebrity culture, the cult of celebrity and the fact that we put stars on a pedestal, even if they don’t have any particular talent. We as a society have become increasingly more obsessed with celebrity culture and our kids have followed suit. It’s evident by the fact that the lines between true “news” and celebrity gossip have been blurred, and we see that traditional and well-respected news outlets often feature celebrity news on their front pages. Let’s also not forget that the digital age in which we live provides a 24/7 stream of celebrity gossip, to which our kids are regularly exposed.

4. What kind of conversation should you have with your children about your concerns?

I think it’s important for parents to instill their values into their kids at a young age and to keep going over them as the kids grow up and are exposed to the media. At the end of the day, we as parents should be the ones that our kids look up to and we should be teaching them right from wrong.

A discussion about the celebrity lifestyle and how these stars do not live the way most of the world does is in order as kids often don’t realize that celebrities are NOT like you and me, despite what they would like to convey to the contrary.

5. How do you deal with the peer pressure your kids might feel?

Again – it comes back to values and our kids having a strong sense of self worth and familial connection. If we’ve done our jobs in showing our kids right from wrong, teaching them our values, etc., they may make the better choices in not only who they emulate but their choice of friends as well.

6. What role should OTHER parents play?

I’ve always been of the mindset that we try to surround ourselves with those who are like-minded. We’d ideally like to have our kids do the same but that isn’t always the case. Getting to know the parents of your child’s friends is the first course of action in getting our kids on the right track. While we can’t completely control what our kids are doing especially when they get into their teens, we can do our part to investigate the types of people our kids are hanging out with. As parents, we also have the responsibility to get to know the parents of our kids’ friends. Someone once said that “it takes a village” to raise a child. Community support is important. This adage is no truer than it is today.

7. Is it realistic to think that you can keep your kids “celebrity-free”?

No, I don’t think it’s realistic. As a matter of fact, I think it’s practically impossible to do this. That’s why it’s so important to have an open dialogue about what’s going on in a child’s life, about what they’re doing in school, who they’re hanging out with, and who they emulate. Keep the lines of conversation open with your kids so that they feel that they can speak to you about what’s going on in their minds and about who they’re looking up to. And on the same note, keep up with what they’re doing on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. because it’s often the technology that is providing our kids with the updates on their favourite stars.

7.  What’s the bottom line on dealing with the cult of celebrity?

Let’s just accept that it’s here to stay and that we as parents have to be one step ahead of what our kids are doing and who they’re following. Keeping the lines of communication open, keeping up with who and what’s hot in the world of our kids and countering the negative stereotypes and messages from celebrities with our own values is the way to do it.

How do you feel about celebrity culture and its effect that it has on our children? What can we as parents do to assure that our kids continue to hold the positive values that we’ve instilled in them in the face of prevalent celebrity culture? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of http://www.fuse.tv

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