It’s impossible to do without role models in society – they are a constant part of daily life. If someone wants to get good at something, they need a good mentor to teach them. There are a some Bill Gateses and Steve Jobs in the world that somehow just teach themselves, but they are few and far between. The rest of us learn from others, and then develop our own contributions.
Today, most role models that children are “learning from” are pop stars – the singers, actors, etc. that our kids are inundated with nonstop through the world of media. This setup is causing numerous problems for today’s young people that look up to these stars and want to imitate them.
Superficial Role Models. What are pop stars really teaching our kids? The “child friendly” TV role models might be decently dressed, polite, and scandal-free, but what else? Is the absence of scandal the highest standard we could wish for young people? Right now, one of the most “decent” pop stars out there is Taylor Swift. She’s decent mainly because of everything she hasn’t done – she hasn’t sexualized herself; she hasn’t dressed immodestly; she hasn’t had problems with drugs or alcohol like many other “stars”.
I might not mind my kids listening to her songs because she’s decent, but I wouldn’t uphold her as a role model because there isn’t enough my kids would learn from her. I want to give my kids to have role models with a constructive set of values, belief and commitment to things that matter. (Note: I’m not saying that Taylor swift doesn’t have any values or commitment, but simply that this isn’t what is mostly publicized about her; she is popular and most known for red lipstick, skinny legs, fashion, and love songs).
The message kids get by being bombarded with Hollywood models is the opposite of the message I want my kids receiving – the vast majority of today’s stars lack commitment and values, and teach that success = fashion, money and popularity. That’s one message my kids, at least, can do without.
Unreachable Role Models. The average child has absolutely no chance of being “successful” by imitating these role models. They don’t have the money, the fame or the personal trainers, and probably never will…Most celebrities spend over $30,000 a year on hair and make-up alone, not counting what they pay for personal trainers and special diets.
Most kids can’t afford that and will never be able to. But they try to – how else can they become like the role models society puts on a pedestal? We now have 10 year old kids trying to look and act like pop stars, messing up their lives in the process, and getting discouraged when they fail dismally because they just don’t have the opportunities or finances needed to to maintain that style of living.
Role Model Facades. Worst of all, many of the role models held up are really facades, or false characters that don’t exist in real life.
Think about Hannah Montana and the other Disney “starlets”. They’re held up as the perfect teen role models. They’re pretty, sweet and modestly dressed.
The problem is that they’re FAKE. Hannah Montana doesn’t exist; she never did. Miley Cyrus exists, but she’s nothing like her screen character. When young girls and teens discover who the actor really is, they have two options:
- Continue upholding the actor as a role model and begin imitating a lifestyle as far away as possible from the innocent teen model they thought they were following, or…
- Reject the role model and, in many cases, feel depressed, disappointed and discouraged. If this role model that seemed so perfect couldn’t succeed, it seems that much more impossible to the normal teen.
Pick any of these three scenarios, and young people are left chasing after something that doesn’t exist and either wind up depressed and discouraged, or emulating an overly secular, sensual existence.
I’m not saying that there should be no “pop star” role models. There should be, but they should be real people with real beliefs and values to be emulated, not fake characters. In addition, they should not be the only (or almost only) role models for young people.
The vast majority of young people are not going to end up on stage or in a sports arena; they are going to be mothers and fathers, doctors and teachers… We need many more role models that aren’t rich, famous and fashionable, but show kids how to succeed in different paths of life.
Teach your kids to leave the pop stars on-screen, and look elsewhere for role models… Help them find people that share your beliefs and values, fulfill their role in their family and community well, and learn from their mistakes when they make them. Usually your kids won’t have to look very far – some of the best role models are usually real, accessible people pretty close to home.