MSNBC recently published a story on teens and the amount of time they spend with media (phones, ipods, TV, computers, and video games). They found that teens spend 7.5 hours a day with media! Apparently teens spend four hours a day just watching TV!
So, with all this TV viewing it’s interesting to ponder how much about life teens learn from TV. (I once joked that everything I ever needed to know about life I learned from Degrassi, but is that far off?) How much of an influence in parenting teens does TV have? Can teen TV stars be role models? Should they be?
An interesting example comes in the form of Gossip Girl‘s youngest star, Taylor Momsen, who plays the “edgy” Jenny Humphrey.
Momsen is usually spotted out and about in New York City wearing no pants, lace or see-through clothing and garters, singing in her rock band “Pretty Reckless”, and showing the cosmetics industry how much she really loves dark eye shadow and deep red and pink lipstick. Perhaps this shouldn’t come into question, after all, Lady Gaga walks the streets of London in a leotard and sunglasses. But Lady Gaga is 23 years-old. Taylor Momsen is 16.
Her most recent antics have come under attack (not that she is normally a media darling). Momsen was spotted last Friday smoking.
In case you didn’t know, smoking is illegal for those under the age of 18. Yet Momsen puffed away anyway. The real concern hasn’t been with her actions being illegal or unhealthy for her, but rather, how they will affect the young people who watch her show.
“She really has an extra responsibility to bear as an actress idolized by little girls out there,” Patrick Reynolds, the director of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free America said to US Weekly in a new article. He added, “For her to be smoking sends the wrong message to kids. Evidence shows that stars do influence kids to smoke.”
Momsen’s response was straight to the point: “To be honest, I don’t f–king care. I didn’t get into this to be a role model. So I’m sorry if I’m influencing your kids in a way that you don’t like, but I can’t be responsible for their actions. I don’t care,” she said to the UK Times.
Is Momsen right? Is she just a 16 year-old girl who makes mistakes and happens to be on one of the most talked about TV shows around? Or did she automatically become more than a teen when she signed up for this show?
Teens and tweens alike do follow and emulate Gossip Girl characters. Some have taken up dressing like Blair and Serena. Some teens copy the lifestyle, please note NYC Prep. But is it the job of the actors to take into account how their behavior affects tweens and teens?
In a 2008 article with Details, Gossip Girl star, Chace Crawford, told a story about the time he asked a gaggle of girls dressed like Blair Waldorf if they were looking at colleges. They said they were only in seventh grade! Crawford told Details that he yelled, “What?! You shouldn’t even be watching our show!’”
But they do watch.
MSNBC‘s study says that, “Only 28 percent of kids cited parental rules on TV watching.” Is it parents’ job to step it up and monitor their kids’ TV shows? Or should the stars step up and set a good example? Do we even need to worry if parents teach their kids that there’s a difference between TV and reality?