For many teens, adolescence is a frustrating and confusing time in which they seek role models, both positive and negative, to guide them through inevitable obstacles and life changing decisions. Celebrity role models, often unaware, have a major influence on teens and in a sense dictate the way they act. This is especially prominent in the digital world teens live in: they can easily access social media accounts and media coverage of their role models on a daily basis. Although celebrities are entitled to their freedom, they should keep in mind that they are not only accountable for their actions, but also for the actions of teenagers looking for guidance and reassurance. Considering the fact that celebrities give off a persona of success and achievement, teens view them as concrete examples of security reached after transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. Many teens try to imitate a celebrity’s behavior and actions as they would of an older sibling for reassurance and stability in their life. Some teens with similar goals encompassing the achievements of their role model such as a famous actor or a sports star do the same. These celebrities in particular have the option to communicate to teens that share their passion the dedication and perseverance required for success. With this in mind, a celebrity can take advantage of their apparent prestige and promote qualities such as responsibility, hard work and compassion, but some choose to act recklessly, therefore affecting teenage behavior in a negative way. However, often times there is a grey area, and role models regret their actions after understanding the impact they have on their fan base. This is perfectly natural; no human is perfect especially when under the extreme pressure being a celebrity entails. Although they are not obligated to do so, it is morally righteous that celebrities with a large youth following does their best to set a positive example. Often times a celebrity’s poor choices have a negative impact on teenagers, while their honorable ones promote similar ethical behavior.
On multiple occasions, celebrities have made bad decisions negatively impacting not only their life, but the lives around them. To convey the significance of a celebrity’s actions on teens, a Barclay Spaces for Sports study states that one in four teens admit to being more influenced by celebrities than the people in their life (Preusz). In particular Justin Bieber, notably one of the most popular celebrities among teens, is tied to drug use, vandalism, and violence. As Carol Krause, National Institute on Drug Abuse communicator, explains, “arrested while street racing in a Lamborghini, the star [Justin Bieber] admitted to police in Florida that he had been drinking, smoking marijuana, and taking prescription drugs all at the same time … and then got behind the wheel of a very fast car.” This was only one incident in which Justin Bieber was arrested for drug and alcohol usage. Given that substance abuse is a huge issue among teens including those who idolize Bieber, the reckless star is indirectly pressurizing teens to do drugs. Additionally it is apparent Justin Bieber violated the law, and his actions instill immoral and selfish behavior; the star could have very easily injured himself and others when choosing to drive under the influence. Having similar destructive actions to Bieber, Snoop Dogg posts over 9,000 pictures involving drugs and alcohol on his instagram (Preusz). By portraying drug consumption as “cool” and “safe”, Snoop Dogg predisposes the quarter of teens that admit that their actions are influenced by celebrities to substance addiction. Not only do teenagers have access to photos of celebrities promoting drugs, but as a result they make a point to imitate social media posts containing substance abuse. With the power of the internet and media, those influenced by their role models’ negative actions have the potential to spread harmful behaviors such as drug usage and infraction to other teens. Despite the responsibility parents have to morally educate their children, celebrities have the power to promote toxic habits in teens and thus should strive to refrain from doing so.
Despite the negative actions of some, celebrities also convey exemplary behaviors by contributing to charity, caring for fans, and helping the community. Specifically Supernatural, a popular television series watched by teens, has a cast full of actors that consistently give back to the community. For example, cast member Jared Padalecki has increased the awareness and contributions to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital by communicating to fans the importance of cancer research. In addition to increasing monetary contributions that support medical advancements, the benevolent Supernatural star launched a t-shirt campaign of his own: To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA). The purpose of Padalecki’s campaign is to raise the awareness of depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide while simultaneously reminding victims of mental disorders that they are not alone. When responding to an interview for Variety Magazine regarding TWLOHA, Padalecki addresses the immediate effects his the campaign by stating:
I am consistently awed by our fans and by the community that is aware of these shirts and supporting it [TWLOHA] and being vocal about it and I’ve read some amazing posts on Twitter and Facebook about people who are saying, “I’ve been depressed for so long. I’m embarrassed to talk about it, but it’s going to help me talk about it,” and I think that’s such a big step. It takes that. Bearing your struggles alone, I don’t think we’ll get very far.
Obviously, Padalecki’s concern for the mental wellness of society is apparent as he makes every attempt to ensure that those in need do not face their mental disorders and “struggles alone”. TWLOHA continues to spread positivity and support as Supernatural fans influenced by Padalecki utilize social media platforms to not only inform the public about mental disorders, but to also offer care and advice intended for sufferers. As a result of Padalecki’s actions teenagers are encouraged to contribute to society themselves, and they are exposed to the invaluable effects of empathy and compassion. Stars like Padalecki that employ fame to promote genuine acts of kindness and forms of supportive unity are admirable leaders for teenagers and other celebrities in society. By reinforcing the importance of community service and an individual’s potential to better society, stars have the ability to positively influence teenage behavior.
With constant exposure to celebrity influences due to easily accessible media, the actions of teens everywhere can be a consequence or a constructive outgrowth to celebrity behavior and broadcasted life. Some celebrities such as Justin Bieber initialize negative habits among fans such as law violation and substance abuse. In these instances celebrities create a false reality for teens, conveying success as the result of inappropriate and reckless actions. These destructive stars should consider the repercussions of their actions regarding teenage behavior, while considering the fact that they have the potential to positively influence teens. By utilizing fame to stimulate positive actions among teens including community service and hard work celebrities can create a better future for society at large.