Vile-y Wiley Miley: Oops…Did Miley Cyrus Do it Again?


Vile-y Wiley Miley: Oops…Did Miley Cyrus Do It Again?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

On the quest for wholesome role models for your tween? Ahem. Miley Cyrus might not be it. After what has been described as a “stripper dance”  at the Teen Choice Awards Monday night, parents and the press are all a-twitter.

I don’t know though. I’m wondering if we’re getting a little crazy over well, a blip in time. Yes, she was wearing shorts that were a bit snug and a bit short, and yes there was the pole, and a few dance moves that weren’t all that innocent looking (see minute 1:07 to 1:45) and “Disney-like” but, a stripper dance? We might be going a bit too far on that one. You tell me.

Mostly, that pole was used for balance—which, on a moving ice-cream cart, is necessary. I know– there were a few hip thrusts that in isolation wouldn’t really have been too much of a problem. After all, we dance by moving our hips most of the time. I think the one move that she did (at 1:07), which ironically got people cheering (figure that one out), was the main problem move—yes, very stripper like. It was yucky and then it was over.

The problem here isn’t really Miley Cyrus. It’s that we hate to connect teens—or preteens- to anything sexual. It’s uncomfortable! It makes us shift in our seats.  We don’t even want to think about it. But there she was, doing this in front of our preteens and teens—we thought we were going to get one thing, and we got a little too much of another. We need to admit it– we don’t like to see Miley doing anything suggestive because we fear that it will rub off on our children or say it’s OK for them to do such things.

We want to like Miley—after all, our children do–but she is making it more difficult for us to like her as a role model for our daughters. The mistake we make is insisting on relying blindly on these celebrities for wholesome family fun. Disney might be wholesome—but Miley Cyrus is NOT “Disney incarnate.” And this wasn’t Disney—it was Fox. At the end of the day, Miley Cyrus is a 16 year old girl, looking to expand her fan-base, and make it even bigger than she already has. It may not be right for our teens. We might not like it. But she is following the path she wants to follow.

Now, I’m not saying that I would run right out and have my daughter watch or emulate Miley Cyrus. No. What I’m saying is, that we can’t rely on Miley to fit the role model status we want her to fit. When we do that, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.  She’s just a celebrity—an entertainer–not necessarily a role model. You want role models, see Taylor Swift, the Jonas Brothers, or someone else who doesn’t flaunt too much of the sex-vibe (although Taylor did do that whole getting wet in the rain thing in her performance of “Should’ve Said No”  which didn’t look totally wholesome either).

What I do what to make clear is the same thing I said when we dealt with the Miley Mess a year and a half ago when she posed for Vanity Fair draped in a sheet and showing her bare back and shoulders to the camera—sort of Lolita-like. If we are going to bring our children to see Miley Cyrus, or watch her on TV with the millions of other fans, we must talk to our teens about what they are seeing. Parents matter.  There are ways to deal with this Miley Mess.

Doesn’t go along with your values? Say that. Think it’s inappropriate? Say why it makes you uncomfortable. Don’t want your daughter emulating what they see? Tell them the problems you foresee. As parents, we need to take responsibility for what our teens are watching and listen to how they are interpreting what they are seeing. We certainly don’t want to make a bigger deal out of it than it is—because it takes one move (at 1:07) and makes it into a whole performance of Titanic proportions.

Don’t like it? Don’t want it? Can’t stand it? Don’t watch it. But then be prepared for your daughter to see these isolated images of Miley Cyrus straddling a pole and making up her own mind about what she is seeing. I vote to talk about it instead—listen more than you talk—and concentrate on raising the most healthy daughter you can. If you are doing it right, it really doesn’t matter what Miley Cyrus is doing anyway.

When Role Models Fail Us: Where Does It Leave the Children?

When Police Officers, Celebrities, and the Government Fail to be Role Models

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

We all make mistakes. It’s human. But we don’t always clean up our messes. As adults—parents, educators, and mentors—we play an important role in teaching children how to cope with mistakes. It’s not always pretty—it’s not always easy—but it’s the responsible thing to do.

But what happens when our role models fail us?

Police Officers: For example, we teach our children that police officers are role models. They look out for us and keep us safe. We may know they aren’t infallible—but we often gloss over that part when we explain their roles to children. They are therefore held in high regard as the people who can do know wrong since they seemingly make what’s wrong right in the world. But after the lack of justice served for Ashley McIntosh (my niece’s 33 year old assistant teacher who was killed last February), parents and educators are still in an uproar. The courts ruled that the police officer, Amanda Perry, didn’t need to take any responsibility for crashing into a young Fairfax County citizen when traveling through a red light without her siren on during a slick, icy night. How can we teach children and teens to take responsibility for themselves and our role models refuse to take responsibility for their mistakes?

Note: Virginia Residents: Help make Ashley’s law a reality by signing this free petition. The law would mandate that emergency vehicle operators always use their lights and siren when driving through red lights, and mandate emergency vehicle operators slow their vehicles so they are able to make a controlled stop when driving through any intersection.

Celebrities: Our children look to celebrities for inspiration and are often crushed when things don’t go as expected. The world seemed to stop cold when Miley Cyrus posed for Vanity Fair in April. She was the real life Disney princess—the everydaughter—the everyfriend—and both parents and young girls felt blindsided by her decision to pose for Annie Leibovitz with only a sheet covering her. She didn’t take responsibility. Nobody did. How can we teach our children and teens the importance of taking responsibility when those in limelight refuse to do so?

Government: Children and teens look to local and national government officials and something to aspire to in their later years. Every child wants to be in charge, don’t they? Many dream of becoming president! But during a year of scandal and shame, in which government has been often equated with adultery, failure, partisanship, and disappointment we must wonder what our children are thinking. Who wants to aspire to be THAT ? When golden parachutes open for those who steal, lie, and cheat, can we really teach our children that it’s best to admit mistakes, take responsibility, and clean up their messes?

What is your role in teaching children to take responsibility?

Redefine role models: Teach your children that people don’t become role models because they hold a particular position—that’s just their job. An oval office or a red carpet doesn’t make a role model. From police officers to celebrities to the little old lady down the street, people become role models because of their character and what they do. And of course- don’t forget to look in the mirror to see their most important role model…you.

Show them that role models are all around us: It’s true. Role models can be found everywhere and anywhere. They may be the responsible babysitter next door who always calls if she’s running a few minutes late or the stay at home mother who volunteers at the local animal shelter twice a week. They can be the teacher who stays an hour after school to help a struggling student or the business man who spends his Saturdays being a “Big Brother” to a child in need. They are every color, every size, every age, and every shape. Find these role models and expose your child to them.

Teach them that role models are not infallible but fix their mistakes: Even those with the best character are not immune to mistakes. That’s not the point. It’s what role models do with those mistakes once they make them. A true role model, whether they’re high ranking officials or a coaches at a Powerful Words Member School program always makes full attempts to mop up their messes and leave things better than they were before they were made.

Be the role model they deserve: Children need to know that for a great role model, they don’t have to look farther than their own home or schools. Parents and teachers must hold themselves to the highest standards. No matter what’s on TV or in the movies, you are the superheroes in their worlds. So try not to make huge mistakes—but if you do—work on fixing them…fast.  Post this up in your minds– if I knew my actions were setting the precedent for the next generation of leaders, would I be doing this? If not, stop. If you already did, see tip #3.

Teach them to be the role model they desire: Children need to know that what they choose to do is important if they want to be leaders. Ask them, how would a great leader handle this problem? What choice should the leader in you make? When they see themselves as leaders and are certain that you expect and know that they can be a powerful role model, they will rise to the occasion 9 out of 10 times.

Tell them to keep their heads high and their eyes on their own plate: This advice came straight from my father while I was growing up. Children and teens need to be confident in their own decisions. They can’t worry about what everyone is doing, thinking, or saying. When we focus on our own goals, other people’s choices don’t throw us.

Talk about mistakes and ask them for their opinions: When role models make mistakes, allow your children and teens to talk about it in their own words. Ask questions. Allow them to vent. Children need to know that they can come to you and talk openly about their frustration, confusion, and concerns. When you simply make yourself “available” to talk and listen, you are teaching them to become critical thinkers and helping them to realize that they can disagree with their role models or even change their minds about them. Talking it out will help them to digest what they’ve heard, expand their minds, and make decisions.

Of course, role models will continue to make blunders. We will continue to make mistakes. But we can’t throw up our hands and say “there’s nothing I can do.” That statement is simply untrue and irresponsible. We have to do better by our children if we want them to do better—be better—think better—as they grow, develop, and lead.

Please comment below– any ideas on how to deal with the failure of role models? We want to hear what you have to say!

Happy Columbus Day-

Like this article? Subscribe to the feed now! It’s free!

Interview about Miley Cyrus: Dr Robyn Silverman on the Dr. Drew Pinsky Radio Show

I had the pleasure of being on Dr. Drew Pinsky‘s radio show the other day (April 29th) to talk about the Miley Cyrus issue and the impact on parents and tweens. For your convenience, I took out all the commercials and just left the actual discussion between Dr. Drew and me. I believe the interview was about 15 minutes long.


click here to listen to the interview

Do Parents Really Matter? Mopping Up the Last of the Miley Mess

Dr. Robyn Answers Parents’ Questions from the last 2 days: Given everything that’s been going on with the Miley Cyrus Debacle this week, parents are wondering if they can ever catch a break. The press is everywhere, everyone’s talking about it, and parents (and grandparents) are wondering if any celebrity can be trusted with our tweens and teens.

As one of the comments said in response to my April 28th Miley article:

In today’s world, where we’ve seen the over-exposure of the Hiltons, the Spears, the Lohans…we have to hope that someone has the guts and know-how to right the Good Ship Miley before it too becomes something we try to avoid our tweens emulating –Grammie

What’s are the biggest mistakes parents can make regarding these types of incidents?

One of the biggest mistakes parents can make is shoving the problem under the rug and hoping not to talk about it. Many would like the story to simply fade away and blow over so that they don’t have to deal with the embarrassment of having to discuss it. There is no doubt that such discussions are difficult– as one parent commented the other day;

“I sort of resent having to explain these more adult issues before I would like to.” –MaryRobb64

Unfortunately, we live in a world of overexposure. It’s the price of living in a free world. You get A LOT OF THINGS– even the information you don’t want–for free! If you have a TV, the internet, a cell phone, or ears on your head, your child is going to hear about it. It then becomes your decision as a parent to either talk about the issue and help to make good sense of it with your daughter or son or pretend it didn’t happen and let the media or your child’s friends educate your children about the issue. Which one do you think is more reliable?

As Powerful Parents, be present and allow the conversation to ensue.

The other really big mistake parents can make is talking too much and not listening enough. I mentioned yesterday on the blog and on the Dr. Drew radio show that it’s vital to know when to talk and when to be quiet. Ask questions instead of always preaching answers. Be a coach, rather than a sage.

When we ask questions, we find out what our tween or teen is thinking and feeling—and the answers might surprise you. What does she think of Miley Cyrus’ decision to pose topless? What would your daughter have done in the same situation? How does she think Miley should handle it? And has your child ever been in a situation where she felt pressured even thought she knew it was mistake to go through with it? You might be surprised by what your children have to say if you just give them a chance to express themselves.

How do the tweens/teens react when the perception of their role model is compromised?

Tweens and teens can internalize the information in different ways:

(1) Become a copcat: Do as their role model has done. Even if Miley, in this case, is basically saying “do as I say not as I do,” many number one fans of Miley will follow her lead. You’ll hear children saying; “Mom, what’s the big deal? Miley is so cool/hot that whatever she does is awesome! ”

(2) Ban their idol: This is drastic. The tween who does this really feels betrayed. In this case, the role model becomes and “anti-role model” (a symbol of what NOT to do) and the tween really turns on the switch by saying “I never liked her anyway.” Or “I liked her when I was younger” or I liked her before she became like the rest of those Hollywood types—those pictures were gross…”

(3) Refuse to believe it: You might wonder how someone can do that when the pictures are right there—but it’s quite simple—they can just say she was forced, tricked, or pressured—or say that it’s been blown out of proportion and everyone’s just wrong. Children are resilient and they will do whatever they can to make it so they can believe what they want and go about their business.

How can parents express their views about these role models without alienating their kids who idolize them?

I spoke a bit about “communicating without condemning” in yesterday’s article “Cleaning Up the Miley Mess.”

Here’s the deal; when things such as the Miley Cyrus situation happen, parents get angry—and when they get angry, they say things that while a true representation of how they’re feeling, might not be appropriate. Parents must communicate with their children about this situation without condemning their child’s role model.

When a parent condemns the role model in question and the tween is still very attached to that role model, a few things can happen; (1) the child can feel attacked and misunderstood and you run the risk of alienating that child; (2) the next time the child makes a mistake, they will be less likely to want to talk to you about it since they see how you react; (3) you can push your child further towards emulating the role model since she wants so badly to defend her—and your not allowing her to do so in a safe and appropriate way.

You may want to be critical, but in doing so, you may alienate your child. That’s not what you’re aiming to do! We have to remember that in the case of Miley Cyrus, parents shouldn’t put her down, but rather, talk about her behavior and why you thought it was inappropriate. Along those same lines, you can have a frank conversation of media, sensationalism, what’s real, and what’s hyped up– rather than attacking the character of a 15 year old girl.

How can parents lay the foundation for positive values and choices in their families?

You lay the foundation for positive values by spending the time and talking about what’s important to your family today. Talk about values when nothing is going on in the media and talk about values when it seems everything is going on in the media. Children should know what their parents value just as parents should know what their children value.

Talk about how people do or do not show respect, responsibility, tolerance, or gratitude—these are powerful words that carry a lot of weight. Perhaps your spouse helped someone at work and showed a lot of teamwork. Perhaps something happened in the news where a child showed incredible sportsmanship. Perhaps your child actually did the dishes without being asked. Values are in action around you—and we must highlight the positive while they’re happening.

In addition, I encourage parents to ask your families; What kind of family do we want to be? Children love to give their input. Don’t be afraid to have a family meeting and get everyone’s opinions. Or get in the car and do what we call “driving the point home” which is when your teen and you are in the car talking about important subjects while side by side in the car—sometimes it’s easier for teens to talk about touchy subjects when the environment is not so serious.

Is it art?

As we long have known, art is subjective. If this photo was an oil painting from the year 1790, we’d certainly all consider it art. It might even be up in the Louvre. Fifteen year olds back then were often married– and not considered kids anymore. There was certainly no talk of tweens and teens back then. However, today, we have impressionable faces looking up to stars like Miley for inspiration and motivation. Miley, a symbol of youth and fun, is not a sex symbol– so seeing her in this way is jarring. It just doesn’t fit.

Her fans think of her as their best friend, girl next door, and big sister they never had. The girl next door doesn’t do these things. But what added to the shock of the photo was its juxtaposition with the photo of her and her Dad. It made people feel uncomfortable and shifty. The girl is covered in a sheet in one shot and lying around on her Dad’s lap in another. If she were 2 years old, it would have been cute; at fifteen, it seems a bit creepy to many.

So is it art? If it were someone else at a different time or of Miley in about 10 years, people would have appreciated it a lot more. It would have been considered a beautiful shot. But today, with the baggage that comes along with every click of the camera, and with little 8-13 year olds watching with baited breath unready to process it all, it crossed an inappropriate line. People see the skin of a budding starlet, and they see sex unleashed– even if that was not the intention– even if it shouldn’t be that way– even if we yearn for a time when it could have been considered art.  Today, in the shadow of the Disney empire and the reflection of miles of tween smiles for Miley, it was a mistake.

But can parents actually make a difference? Competing with media and peers…

You may be surprised, but the answer is yes. In fact, regardless of what’s going on out in the world, you are still the most prominent role model in your child’s life.

  • The Kaiser Family Foundation surveyed tweens and teens, ages 10-17 years old, about their role models. Researchers found that while 73% of respondents named sports figures, 56% named TV or movie stars, and 32% claimed that rock and rap stars had the honor, an astonishing 92 percent of kids named their parents.
  • An article entitled Parents or pop culture?: Children’s heroes and role modelsin Childhood Education echoed similar findings. Children most frequently named their parents (34%), then entertainers (20%), then friends (20%), professional athletes (14%), and acquaintances (8%).. Most respondents chose a person that they knew rather than one they didn’t, when asked about who they looked to as a role model. When asked why they chose someone they knew rather than one who was famous, one 10-year-old made quite an apropos statement, “I didn’t put down people I don’t know because when nobody’s paying attention, they do something bad.
  • A study of more than 1,100 12-18 year olds participated in a survey on behalf of the American Bible Society. Again, the survey concluded that 67.7% believed parents were the most important role models in today’s society.
  • For a teen, having a role model, particularly one known to the individual, is associated with higher self-esteem and higher grades. For Caucasian teens without custodial fathers, having a role model was associated with decreased substance use. (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2002;156:55-61.)

Of course, it’s important to remember that we all make mistakes. This week, it’s Miley Cyrus. Next week, it might be you. The important thing here is how one deals with their mistakes. Do they admit wrong doing and move on? Do they crawl under a rock? Do they point the finger at someone else? Anyway you slice it, there’s a lesson there. And with every lesson, there’s a great conversation to be had with your child.

Good luck!

Miley Cyrus: 8 Ways to Clean up the Miley Mess

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman


Dr. Robyn was on Dr. Drew’s national radio show at 3:35 EST/12:35 PST today to discuss the Miley Cyrus issue: Click here to listen to the interview


Yes, everyone is scrambling to right Miley’s misstep. Vanity Fair issued their YouTube video (above) to show the relaxed atmosphere of the photo shoot (sans the actual Lolita-like photo in question). Annie Leibovitz is defending her photos as “beautiful.” The network is claiming deliberate manipulation of a young girl. And the press is just trying to make sense of it all– the possible desire for a young starlet to shake her tween image and be seen as “more grown up,” the creation of a public frenzy that can add to the Miley millions (ahem, billions?), and which photo is more offensive (the one of Cyrus’s bare bod coyly wrapped in a sheet, or the shot of bare midriff while sprawled across her Daddy’s lap?).

But while the public is cyber-guessing the fate of Miley and her empire, parents and tweens are left in the wake of it all. Moms and Dads don’t care about whether Disney will find a replacement for Miley– they’re busy wondering what to do next. Considering the harmful impact of increased sexualization of girls in the media and the jarring way this tween idol was introduced as “not a girl, not yet a woman,” to her fans, it’s not surprising that parents are reeling.

Just looking at the comments from yesterday’s post here on the Powerful Parenting Blog, you can see anger, dismay, and confusion. Tweens and teens feel betrayed:

Oh my gosh, I completely agree. I was so upset when I saw those pictures. It was like, “Whoa. That’s depressing.” I don’t want to say it, but I think my role model has turned into a…well, you know. I’ll just say…one of THEM. The worst part was that I practically worshiped her. Now I feel stupid, especially since I was her biggest fan in the entire universe. (by: Lifeswhatyoumakeit)

and adults are asking for help:

I’m a mother of a Tween girl and every time the media reports something new about a child icon– I gulp wondering; how do I explain this to my daughter? I sort of resent having to explain these more adult like issues before I would like to. (By MaryRobb64)

Let’s get down to it. So what are parents to do?

  1. Chalk it up to a teachable moment: Ignore it, and it won’t go away. Might as well take the bull by the horns. Tweens and teens can learn from the mistakes of their favorite idols if you frame it correctly. Talk about your values, the values of the family, and what you believe the icon did right or wrong. Grasp onto stories of teens, athletes, or celebrities that made mistakes and then changed their life for the better. For example, America’s sweetheart Drew Barrymore once made headlines for drugs, alcohol, and partying but has since become a stable adult. This is a good lesson for teens to hear. In the same way, when athletes make mistakes and admit them publicly, it’s another moment for a great conversation.
  2. Ask questions: Stop talking. Take a breath. Don’t jump to conclusions. You don’t even know what your child is thinking yet! What does she think of Miley Cyrus’ decision to pose topless? What would she have done in the same situation? What does she think Miley should do next? You might be surprised by what your children have to say if you just give them a chance to express themselves.
  3. Communicate without condemning: You may want to be critical, but in doing so, you may alienate your child. That’s not what you’re aiming to do! Have a conversation about the icon in question. Remember, it’s not the individual you have a problem with, it’s their behavior, right? In the case of Miley Cyrus, don’t put her down, rather, talk about the message that her partially nude photograph is sending to her fans.
  4. Find the positive: I know it can be difficult at times– especially with celebrities you find so detestable. While you may not like everything about a celebrity—perhaps there’s something you can find that send a good message. The singer, Pink, may be rough around the edges, but she tells girls that it’s important to be themselves even when everyone is telling them to blend.
  5. Provide counter-media role models: All role models don’t need to come from between the pages of a magazine or on TV. Role models can be found everywhere. Teachers, big sisters or brothers, local heroes, soldiers, local artists, and even heroes and heroines in books can provide more stable, consistent role model standards. When you expose your children to a variety of role models, they won’t have to defer to celebrities and celebutants for inspiration.
  6. Take a look through their eyes: You might be wondering what makes your daughter or son choose a certain role model when their icon has made a few blunders. Take a walk in their shoes. Ask them about their hero—what is it about them that really floats their boat? When you look at Kelly Osborne, daughter of the famous-for-being-dysfunctional Osborne family, you may see a foul-mouthed girl dressed in black. Your daughter, on the other hand, might see a girl who speaks her mind and doesn’t conform to the typical size 2 celebrity body requirement that’s so prevalent in today’s world. A celebrity might make a kid feel more OK with themselves.
  7. Be the role model they deserve: Be a positive example to your child. They’re watching you to see what they should do next. When it comes to being a role model, you must be aware that the choices you make don’t only impact you but also the children who regard you as their superhero. Do you show confidence in yourself and what you look like? Are you respectful? Self-disciplined? Someday, they will be in the same predicament and think to themselves, “What did s/he do when s/he was in the same situation?” When you are a role model it’s not enough to tell your charges the best choices to make. You must put them into action yourself.
  8. Talk about powerful words and powerful actions: What kind of family do you aspire to be? Have a family meeting and get everyone’s input. While the outside world may be erratic and unpredictable, together, you can create safe boundaries and limits so that your children can stay on the path to reach their goals. Use the character lessons your children are learning in their classes each month as springboards for discussion at your own dinner table or “drive the point home” after you leave your Powerful Words member academy.

And, as my mother always told me, “this too shall pass.” Tweens and teens are resilient– and you are too. And while your child is dealing with the blow to her icon, you can give her a safe place to land. She needs it and we’re depending on it.

Come back tomorrow when we explore another part of the Miley Mess and answer the question: Can parents really make a difference? See you then.

Dr. Robyn Silverman is a nationally known child and teen development expert and parenting coach. She’s an award-winning parenting columnist for Bay State Parent Magazine, the body image expert for The Applied Developmental Science Encyclopedia and Shaping Youth and the creator of the Powerful Words Character Development Curriculum used by over 500 top-notch after-school programs worldwide.

Miley Cyrus: Role Model Ruined?

When 15 year old, Miley Cyrus showed up topless and coyly wrapped in what appears to be a satin bedsheet in the June issue of Vanity Fair, controversy broke out and opinions multiplied. It wasn’t so much about what was showing or whether or not the Annie Leibovitz photo could be considered art. But rather, it was the mature spirit of the photograph juxtaposed with the immature fan-base the tween icon who worships her every move. Disney, the parent company of the billion dollar Hannah Montana franchise aimed at tweens is reeling, Miley voiced embarrassment and apologies, and her spokesperson claimed manipulation. But the ones who are extremely concerned are the parents of young girls who look up to Miley as a role model.

Given that young girls like to dress up and act like their favorite stars, parents should be on alert. Developmentally speaking, tweens experiment. They’re trying on different identities and figuring out which ones feel right. In working out who they are, they copy those who they admire. So when teen singer, Avril Lavigne, wore a sleeveless T-shirt with a tie, girls showed up to school the next day having raided their Dad’s closet. Given Miley’s recent misjudgment (or perhaps the misstep of her parents, publicist, photographer, or host magazine?), no parent should be surprised if today’s tweens drop their favorite outfits and show up to playtime loosely wrapped in their Beauty and the Beast bedsheets as their best friend takes their best shot.

Where did all the role models go?

What makes up a tween/teen role model has changed dramatically over the last several decades. Kids used to look to public figures like Dr. Martin Luther King, President John F. Kennedy, or the squeaky clean Brady Bunch and Partridge Family for their inspiration. Then media took over. Everyone starlet seems to be growing up too soon, tying one on, or taking something off. Parents are contending with the likes of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Eminem. The latter, who even quips in his lyrics;

I came to the club drunk with a fake ID
Don’t you wanna grow up to be just like me!
I’ve been with 10 women who got HIV
Now don’t you wanna grow up to be just like me!
I got genital warts and it burns when I pee
Don’t you wanna grow up to be just like me!

Teens and tweens are saturated with a large does of media garbage. The average American child spends 4-4 ½ hours a day exposed to TV, radio, video games, or the Internet. That means they’re spending the equivalent of a good part time job with questionable mentors.

Why it’s hard to trust:

We loved Lindsay Lohan as a freckle-faced charmer in Parent Trap. Britney Speaks was adorable in the Mickey Mouse Club. Barry Bonds had every boy’s heart in his hand as he got ready to break Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record. What happened to our kids’ role models? Either drugs, alcohol, DUIs, sex tapes, rehab, jail-time, psych wards, negative peer pressure, exposed body parts or a combination of a bunch of the above.

Parents and tweens are always selecting role models that seem wholesome, pure, and promising. We are seeking out people who exemplify the values we believe are important; respect, self-discipline, gratitude, and other powerful words by which we try to live. But the public is getting burned. It wouldn’t be surprising if parents are becoming suspicious and jaded. I think one parent said it best after a Hillary Duff concert;

“We thought she seemed really nice,” said Debbie Wright of Lexington. Wright had brought her two daughters, ages 9 and 13, to the show and waited for them on a couch in the parents lounge. She added, “Of course, we thought that of Britney Spears.”

When it comes to racy role model, Danica Patrick and her controversial decisions to expose (or overexpose?) herself or Kim Kardashian decides to pose for playboy, we know that, whether we think it’s a good decision or a bad one, and adult made the decision. It may make parents angry, but somehow, it’s different. These adults are allowed to do dumb things.

But tween role models aren’t allowed the same amount of space for slip-ups. Parents and tweens are watching their every move. They’re under 24/7 surveillance. They’re overexposed through TV, magazines, internet, texting, and every other media outlet that tells all. Miley’s Vanity Fair photos might only reveal her back, but parents see a Little Lolita. It may not be warranted. It may not even be fair. But they begin to wonder if it’s only the beginning of a series of bad judgments from the Hannah Montana star. After all, this is what they’ve gotten used to with the celebs who’ve come before her.

We know tweens and teens grow up. Celebrities grow up. But when our kids are copying their favorite star, parents are looking for consistency. Reliability. One hundred percent wholesome character. Anything else and the balance gets knocked around. The children have a few choices with regard to how to internalize the information:

(1) Go with the flow: Copy what their favorite role model is doing for good or bad. “What’s the big deal, Mom? Miley’s doing it…it must be cool, awesome, special, hot, daring…”

(2) Go against the flow: A harder endeavor. Make their role model the anti-role model and say “ta-ta” to their idol who deceived or disappointed them. “I never liked her anyway. Who does that? It’s so stupid, gross, dumb, raunchy…”

(3) Go into denial: Say it didn’t happen or it didn’t happen that way and keep on going in the same direction they always went, not changing a thing. “She was forced, tricked, pressured…she’d never do that if she knew what was really going on. Adults can be so disgusting. “The best of both worlds…oooohh, ooooohhh!”

So what’s doing to happen with girl-next door, wonder-girl, Smiley Miley? We have to wait and see how she handles it. Nobody’s perfect. Sometimes it’s not the mistake but how the celebrity deals with that mistake that provides the greatest lesson to teens and tweens.


Dr. Robyn was on Dr. Drew’s national radio show at 3:35 EST/12:35 PST today to talk about the Miley Cyrus situation; click here to listen to the interview


You can help too–Stay tuned tomorrow for 8 tips to help parents cope with controversial role models!