Imagination plays a big part in a child’s life. It allows them to build universes and worlds and scenarios in their minds and lets them inject themselves into these worlds in various roles and scenarios. From the books they read, the movies and shows they watch, and the games they play, children develop a minute sense of who they are and who they want to be. Astronauts, cowboys, princesses, spies – these are just a few of the things almost all of us imagined being at some point, and as we observed such characters in action, we emulated them in our gameplay and everyday living.
The teenage years are when many of these fanciful characters either die and are replaced by different role models, like celebrities, or they develop into a lifelong pursuit of careers related to those childhood games. This is where celebrities enter the chat.
Famous people can have either a positive or negative impact on your teenager. They can inspire and lead and help foster healthy opinions, but they can also lead your teen to develop an unhealthy body image or begin dabbling with illicit substances. This negative impact can lead your child down the road of depression and anxiety and has led to a severe need for mental health treatments and teen counseling.
A teenager’s body image is built by many factors including peers, family, where they live, their cultural background, and their social situation.
Social media frequently portrays idealistic and impossible standards of beauty, such as thinness, muscularity, flawless skin, and perfect hair. These images are often edited or filtered by many apps to enhance their appeal. Adolescents can spend a lot of time scrutinizing these images and comparing themselves. This makes many teens develop negative feelings about their own appearance.
A negative body image can pose a serious threat to a teen’s physical and mental health. Focusing on their differences for too long can lead to low self-confidence, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and even suicidal thoughts. Teens need to develop a healthy and positive mindset about their appearance based on their strengths and characteristics.
A few ways that teens can protect themselves from the harmful effects of media on their body image are:
- Reduce time spent on social media and be aware of its effects on their feelings
- Follow accounts promoting positive body image and diversity
- Seek help from family and professionals if they are struggling with mental health issues or body image woes
- Practicing gratitude and self-care for their body and its abilities
- Replacing negative thoughts about their appearance with positive and affirming ones
- Celebrating their uniqueness and expressing themselves in ways that bring joy
Celebrities have the perfect platform to help teens build positive and healthy body images.
How Celebrities Influence Teen Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are serious mental health issues that affect many people worldwide, particularly teens and young adults. They take the form of restricting food intake, bingeing, purging, or overexercising.
Discontent with one’s body often leads to eating disorders, depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety. Parenting a teen with anxiety or other mental health issues can be difficult. Teenage girls who consume media with images of unrealistic bodies on celebrities can feel pushed to resort to any means to achieve what they see on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. Many girls do not realize that aside from all of the filters being used, many celebrities undergo extreme and dangerous surgeries to maintain or uplift their looks to fit a certain standard.
Research shows that young men are becoming increasingly affected by unrealistic body images. Viewing media filled with “roided up” men who are in their 50s (ahem, Dwayne Johnson) but still have bulging muscles and 2% body fat can lead to excessive and unhealthy exercise and diets among male teens.
Celebrities influence substance use behaviors in assorted ways. Singers and actors may promote alcohol use on social media sites perused by teenagers and may also glamorize substance use in their music, movies, or television shows, without showing the harmful effects or consequences of addiction and substance dependency. Very few shows, such as Euphoria, actually show the negative aspects of drugs and alcohol.
Some celebrities are known to endorse non-FDA-approved services and products claiming to suppress appetite, enhance performance, or improve appearance. This is misleading and triggering for adolescents who struggle with eating disorders or addiction. However, some celebrities (Like Michael K. Williams and Robert Downey Jr.) have shared their own experiences with substance abuse and recovery, and have raised awareness about the seriousness of addiction and the importance of seeking help.
Celebrities can raise awareness and reduce stigma about mental health issues by sharing their own experiences, struggles, and triumphs. Numerous celebrities have spoken out about their struggles with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, and other mental health conditions. This has helped to standardize the dialogue and inspired others to seek help.
A few celebrities who have opened up about their struggles are:
- Demi Lovato has frequently vocalized their struggles with bipolar disorder, addiction, and eating disorders. They have also made a documentary called Dancing with the Devil, which chronicles their recovery journey.
- Kristen Bell has up about her experiences with anxiety and depression. She has also used The Child Mind Institute and The Ellen Show to advocate for mental health awareness and resources.
- Simone Biles suffers from ADHD and has faced online bullying related to it. She has withdrawn from certain events at the Tokyo Olympics because of mental health reasons, highlighting the importance of prioritizing one’s well-being.
- Selena Gomez is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and lupus. Selena has shared her story on social media and through interviews and is an avid supporter of organizations such as The Lupus Research Alliance and The Trevor Project.
This is a small segment of celebrities who have used their influence to raise awareness about their struggles and have helped reduce the stigma around seeking help. We cannot forget the many celebrities who went through their struggles and died because of them, such as Mac Miller, Chester Bennington, Avicii, Heath Ledger, and others.
Lifestyle is one of the things that teens want to copy most from celebrities’ lives. The fancy cars, luxurious houses, and fabulous vacations that celebrities are often sported attaining easily become the dreams of many adolescents. This can be a positive thing if the celebrities your teen follows promote healthy life choices.
You can sit with your adolescent and help steer them towards influencers who will help their self-esteem and goals in life take a more positive route. You could pull some examples of how bad business decisions and personal choices (the likes of MC Hammer, Michael Jackson, and Weskey Snies) can easily make someone lose everything they have worked for in life.
How to Discuss Celebrity Influence With Your Teen
Celebrity influence and pop culture play a big role in a teen’s life and their developing identity. These years can see your teen become inspired to achieve the most that they can in life, or it can see them sink into a life of substance abuse and jail cells. Opening up a dialogue with your teen and teaching them how to handle outside influence, particularly from celebrities, can make all the difference in the world.
Below are some tips on how to talk to teens about celebrity influence:
Express empathy. Teens are more likely to listen to you and respond positively when they feel understood and respected. Avoid judging or lecturing them about their choices or preferences, and instead show curiosity and interest in their thoughts.
Ask open-ended questions. Asking questions that invite teens to share their perspectives can help them reflect on their own beliefs and values.
Provide information and facts. Teens are not often aware of the behind-the-scenes realities of celebrity culture, such as editing, filtering, marketing, medical procedures, or public relations. You can show them how to search for the itty gritty and learn how to spot the fake from the real.
Use celebrities’ stories as discussion entry points. A few celebrities have openly shared their struggles and challenges with mental health, substance use, or other issues and these are opportunities for you and your teen to discuss these issues the the effect they have on their lives.
Encourage critical thinking and self-esteem. Help your teen learn how to evaluate the credibility and validity of the messages they receive from celebrities and other media sources.
Discussing celebrity influence can be very challenging, but ultimately rewarding as it strengthens your relationship with your child. Following this guide can help your teen become more informed, aware, and confident.