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Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, et al: Some teen role model advice

Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus and the whole pool of pop culture role models for teens have their every foolish frenzie and faux pas shot round the world on the Internet. How can parents help teenagers evaluate the messages and values of these inflated antics?

By Guest bloggers / June 19, 2012

Justin Bieber fans cheer outside a Mexico City hotel where he gave a press conference Jun3 11, 2012. Celebrity role models are making headlines for poor behavior and sexy photos. How can parents help their teens evaluate teen pop star role models?

Alexandre Meneghini/AP

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Justin Bieber punched a paparazzi; Chris Brown and Drake’s nightclub brawl resulted in innocent bystanders getting injured; Miley Cyrus is engaged but pictures of her close "friendships” with other males keep popping up; Lindsay Lohan crashed a car and paramedics were called to her room when it  was thought that she was unconscious.

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Talking Teenage

Jennifer Powell-Lunder (l.) and Barbara Greenberg (r.) are practicing psychologists specializing in adolescent issues. Both have been published widely and appear regularly in the print and broadcast media as teen experts. They blog together at Talking Teenage.

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What’s next? Will One Direction go in the wrong direction or perhaps get lost? What kind of messages are modeling when the fact that a very pregnant Snooki has put away her platforms and opted for flats so that she won’t topple over is considered big celebrity news? I mean does anyone actually care about her footwear fancies? They must or it wouldn’t be making such big news on the top celeb websites.

What are we telling our teens (our future leaders) when we emphasize the foolish frenzies and faux pas of pop culture’s elite?

Gone are Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, Jackie O, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and Henry Fonda. Sure Liz Taylor always seemed to be in the headlines, but would news of a fifth (or sixth) marriage or a wanton affair really make big news these days? Such hype pales in comparison to secret celebrity sex tapes, which seem to go viral in an instant.  Would our knowledge and understanding of these "Hollywood Heroes" be different if the instant gratification of the Internet had detailed their every move and misstep? Perhaps. However, maybe it was the clothes they donned or mood of the times that things seemed less provocative then and less shocking and seedy.

One doesn’t even need to flash back that far to notice the stark differences. Remember the days of David Cassidy devotion, or the heyday of boy bands such as 'N Sync and New Kids on the Block? Back then Madonna’s concert costumes made big news. In retrospect, Madonna’s frocks now seem less shocking in comparison to Lady Gaga’s see-thru sheaths. How many times has she been cited for indecent exposure? Freedom and creativity are important, but please, put on some clothes.

Perhaps all the instant gratification of getting the news and the gossip in real time has changed our role as parents. To try and keep up with all the information seems at times impossible. And while teen idols of today may be sassier, sexier, and more seductive than role models of yore, in reality, as parents we represent the most important role models in our teen’s lives. They turn to us for their values and understanding about the world around them. Our job is to provide support and understanding through caring and communication.

Most importantly, we must practice what we preach. They are always watching and learning from us. In the end, it doesn’t matter if a pregnant Snooki opts for flats over wedges, or whether Miley Cyrus even makes it to the alter. When we model the right road for our teens they are sure to take the best path with a few bumps in the road of course for good measure. Can you remember some of the detours off the path you took when you were their age? I know I can.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Jennifer Powell-Lunder and Barbara Greenberg blogs at Talking Teenage.

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