Social media has made the ‘celebrity crush’ more complicated for teens and their parents. In the first of two special blogs we look at how social media has changed the nature of the celebrity crush and how parents can help protect their children.
A childhood rite of passage
A celebrity crush is something of a rite of passage for teenagers. For a while it is all-consuming but it sits firmly in the land of fantasy. Eventually we grow a little wiser and decide we are done with the ‘childish’ obsession. There is damage is done (barring a little embarrassment when it is recalled).
Social media and the teenage celebrity crush
Before the advent of social media, the closest a fan could get to their star would be waiting outside a stage door or joining their fan club. In the main communication between a star and their fans was filtered or managed through media. What they said on TV, radio, in magazines or newspapers was ultimately edited or controlled in some way – from the 9 o’clock watershed to the editor’s red pen. Social media changed all of that.
The ease of communication social media offers and its personalisation is unprecedented. It has never been easier for celebrities to interact directly with their fans, and vice-versa. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat all offer direct avenues for interaction, and the speed of innovation means the next medium of choice for celebs and their fans is probably just around the corner.
Influencing the decisions teens make
As celebrities always have, they wield significant power and influence over teenagers. They are opinion leaders and opinion formers. With the ability to message and chat directly with their fans online, there is scope for at least misunderstandings around the nature of the relationship.
Stars talk about the love they have for their fans but that love is better classed as philia love – the Greek word for an affectionate love born out of friendship. The potential for this to be misinterpreted or worse still, deliberately manipulated is rightly a concern for parents.
The darker side of celebrity-fan relationships
Earlier this year footballer Adam Johnson was jailed for grooming and sexual activity with a girl aged 15. Johnson had used various social media apps during his relationship with the teenager. This along with other high profile cases demonstrate the ease with which celebrities can influence impressionable teenagers directly.
But what can parents do to help protect their children from these, thankfully, relatively isolated instances?
1. Be involved but not controlling
Try to take a genuine interest in what your teenager is passionate about. This passion will be reflected in their social media interactions and the celebrities and heroes they might communicate with. Developing an understanding of who and what they are interested in will better equip you to be alert to issues that might be arising.
2. Promote positive role models
Where possible promote positive role models to your children. Encourage a focus on celebrities who combine their career with charitable or philanthropic work, or individuals who maintain a more normalised approach to their life. Consider also who you admire and relate to within the celebrity world. Parents are a child’s primary source of learning and massively influence their decisions and attitudes.
3. Talk to them about the influence of celebrities
Use your own personal experiences to highlight how easy and normal it is to getting carried away with a celebrity crush. Do not be judgemental or force your opinion on to your teenager. Instead offer up your experiences as advice and guidance.
Ultimately it is about helping them realise the power celebrities have over their fans and thankfully the small number of incidences when that power is abused.