Celebrities now have more of an influence on teens than ever before.
A major factor in why celebrities are more influential today has to do with the rise of media consumption as well as the increased use of mobile devices. In fact, high school students spend about 20 to 40 hours per week on a screen, which means they have a lot of exposure to celebrities via TV shows, movies, websites, and social media.
While there are some positive celebrity role models, there are also some that are negative. These celebrities tend to promote the use of drugs in their songs, TV and movie appearances, and on multiple digital platforms.
How Celebrities Influence Teens
A lot of research has been conducted on celebrity influence and how that relates to teen media consumption. A Barclay Spaces for Sports study of 2,700 teenagers ages 13 to 18 found about 25% of teens were more influenced by celebrities than the people they know.
Since teens are more influenced by celebrities than anyone else and consume about 20 to 40 hours of media per week, it’s not a surprise that many teens end up using drugs as a result. Celebrities often post pictures of partying and drinking alcohol or using drugs and many teens viewing these posts think they should participate in the same behavior.
While not only celebrity drug use is to blame, there is research that supports teens are now using drugs at an earlier age than ever before. A 2012 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry shows that a majority of substance abuse among teens starts around age 14.
Celebrities Are Highly Influential on Social Media
Teens today are the most social media savvy generation. To reach this audience, celebrities have dominated on several social media platforms and some of them post pictures using drugs and/or promoting drug use.
The social media channel where celebrities have the most influence on teens is Instagram. Currently, Instagram is the most popular social media channel among teens and celebrities such as Wiz Khalifa, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Snoop Dogg, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber have all published posts on the platform in relation to drug use. Here are just a few specific examples:
- Miley Cyrus (@mileycyrus) wore a T-shirt that says, “In Love With the Coco,” which is by many accounts a reference to the O.T. Genesis song “Coco” about cocaine.
- More than 7% of Snoop Dogg’s (@snoopdogg) Instagram photos involve drugs or alcohol. He also posts more photos on Instagram than any other celebrity and has included alcohol and illegal drugs in over 9,000 of his photos. Not surprising from someone who claims to have smoked 81 joints in a day.
- In 2014, the rapper Devin the Dude (@devindude420) had the highest percentage of Instagram photos containing alcohol and/or drugs at 23.5%. Wiz Khalifa (@mistercap) had the second highest amount at 15.7%, followed by Tommy Chong (@heytommychung) at 14.1%.
- The most followed man on Instagram, Justin Bieber (@justinbieber), who has more than 67 million followers, recently posted a picture of himself with an alcohol bottle.
How to Lessen the Effects of Negative Celebrity Influences
While it may be nearly impossible to avoid all celebrity influence, teens can lessen the negative effects by surrounding themselves with positive role models. There are many celebrities that do not promote drug use and do a lot of good for the world. Parents need to also be mindful of the media their teen is consuming and have them avoid wherever possible any negative media influences. Time on mobile devices can also be restricted at certain times of the day to lessen the amount of exposure to celebrity influence.
If you think a teen is negatively influenced by a celebrity or even several celebrities, be sure to be observant. Any changes in clothing and behavior could be signs of alcohol or drug abuse.
If you suspect your teen or a teen you love may have an alcohol or drug abuse problem or even addiction, know that there are several resources that can help. You can talk to your physician about options or visit TheAddictionAdvisor.com or InsipriationsforYouth.com for more information.
Jared Preusz, M.S., is a Web Content Manager who regularly contributes to The Addiction Advisor, a website that offers addiction resources and information to those with addictions and their loved ones. Jared has written several articles about addiction and recovery and is passionate about helping others. You can read more of his articles on The Addiction Advisor blog. This article represents the personal views, opinions and experiences of the author only and does not purport to offer medical advice.