Does Your Kid Want To Be Like Beyonce?, founder of the popular band the Black Eyed peas, recently spoke at The Grill Entertainment Conference about how kids today don't think running Google is cool or inspiring.  

At's annual conference, the singer said, “My 7-year-old niece wants to be like Beyoncé, which is cool,” he said. “She’s probably not going to want to be a code writer at Google. She doesn’t know about it. She doesn’t know about how much money she can make, or how she could get to travel. She won’t know that’s an option until we shine a light on it.”

First, let me tell you that the Peas singer didn't strike me as a deep thinker, but apparently he spends time 'knowledgeing up' when he travels and is sitting in hotel rooms.

Secondly, I agree with him.

Today's celebrity-driven American culture has placed too much emphasis on success through fame instead of celebrating education as the vehicle to 'making it' in America. We are all aware of how young celebrities are thrust on our youth via heavy media campaigns and commercialization of their fame touted as the epitome of American success. And to an extent it is. Making those millions is what our system is all about. Making serious money is the carrot dangled from the college halls as the reward for getting a degree.

Fittingly, a study titled, The Rise of Fame: An Historical Content Analysis, conducted at UCLA 's Children's Media Center found the following:

“A key developmental task during the tween years, age 9-11, is to form a belief system that integrates the many messages communicated via a variety of socializing agents including parents, school and media (Eder & Nenga, 2003; Harter, 1990). Social models provided by the entertainment environment of mass media convey a large amount of information about human values, styles of thinking, and behavior (Bandura, 2001). Characters on TV influence people in a wide variety of domains including work (Hoffner et al., 2006; Hoffner, Levine, & Toohey, 2008; Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorelli, 1979), moral values (Rosenkoetter, 2001) and family life (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorelli, 1980; Comstock & Paik, 1991). Pertinent to the present study, university students in the U.S. identified more with TV characters perceived to have higher paying jobs and higher status than with characters who held less glamorous jobs (Hoffner et al., 2008). Accordingly, it is likely that tweens observing teenage characters with high status jobs that emphasize public recognition and material success will aspire to be like these social models.

The changes in multimedia content and the possibilities for the interactive construction of fame on YouTube may have a measurable impact on the goals and desires of emerging adults. Reynolds et al. (2006) tracked changes in high school students’ educational and occupational plans over twenty-five years and found that in the later decades, senior students’ ambitions outpaced what they were likely to achieve (Reynolds, Stewart, MacDonald, & Sischo, 2006); fame may be one of those ambitions. In so far as fame in and of itself is an unrealistic ambition disconnected from academic achievement, it could undermine motivation to succeed in school and thus result in dissatisfaction later in life (Buckingham, 2007a; Kirst & Venezia, 2004). Moreover, aspirations for material wealth and fame have been found to correlate with lower well-being (Kasser, Ryan, Couchman, & Sheldon, 2004; Kasser & Ryan, 1993; Kasser & Ryan, 1996b). Future research can subject these implications to empirical test.

Children during the preadolescent and adolescent years are wrestling with moral and identity development (Hart & Gustavo, 2005; Massey, Gebhardt, & Garnefski, 2008). Media, ever prevalent in the lives of today’s youth, are an important source of information for their developing concepts of what the social world outside their immediate environment is all about. However, early adolescents are not watching characters in everyday environments; instead they are watching and likely identifying with youth who have enormously successful careers to the point of becoming famous. If tweens observe characters they admire succeeding and achieving wide public recognition and material success with little effort or training, they are likely to believe that this success is entirely possible and easy to achieve. This is an important issue for future research. “

I found this dismaying.

To further back-up the performer's observations, I did a quick search on young celebrities who are pursuing higher education in spite of them already having fame and fortune, and also those who have opted out of going to college.

A few recent young Hollywood stars who are attending or attended college are: Dakota Fanning, Emma Watson, JoJo, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen.  A few that aren't: Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Jonas Brothers and  Justin Bieber.

Of course, there's something to be said about being born with talent and using it to the fullest thus skipping the path 'regular' folks usually follow towards achieving success — that's just the way it is.


But then there's the old adage: “To he who much is given, much is expected.”

While many in the entertainment industry see their wildest dreams (and more) come true thanks to God -given talent, I would hope they would become better positive contributors in our current celebrity-obsessed society.  I'm not referring to them opening restaurants or  just throwing money at certain charities or programs (but if this is all they can do, then we'll take it).

Using fame as a platform to raise awareness about important issues; taking part in lessening the plight of others around them; using their abundant wealth to improve community facilities and other community-oriented endeavors and seeing these reported just as widely in the media as a Kardashian clothing-line launch would benefit youth, and also help lessen the notion that fame and fortune is the only perfect combination for success and happiness. (Blaming the media for this skewed reporting of celebs activities is a topic for another blog post.)

Sure, no celeb is going to walk into a windowless basement full of humming computers and spend precious shopping time entering codes, but shinning a brighter light on their charitable occupations when they aren't on stage would enlighten their impressionable fans about a how they are helping to forge a better world for more than just themselves.

(In fact, here's one for a high-earning celebrity to consider: the non-profit group Volunteer San Diego just closed because of lack of funding!)

Hearing a child say I want to be like Beyonce, Miley or Justin wouldn't sound  as bad if this were coupled with an immediate connection to these perfomers' dedication to their community's improvement of values and morals, rather than just relating to their fame and fortune.

Do you think young Hollywood celebrities have a responsibility to live up to the wise adage, or none of our business?

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