February 9, 2016

Is trash media responsible for a lack of positive role models?


girl watching television


During the filming of ’16 Kids and Counting’ I was repeatedly interviewed on our choice to limit the amount of television our family watches.  My answer that there is so much more to do in life than to waste it sitting in front of a box wasn’t enough.  I was asked whether I was trying to control what they were exposed to, and whether that was overly-excessive parenting on my part.

My answers were yes and no.

And so I elaborated.

Of course we wanted to control what our children were exposed to.  Not only our children but ourselves too.  Our view is that the boundaries of acceptability have changed so much and so far, that the things that were once considered shocking have now become normal.  What once was considered unacceptable is now acceptable for children to see and follow.  And every time this happens the boundaries change, and the next shock factor becomes normalised. How far are we prepared to let them go before we say ‘Enough is enough!’

With the the multitude of technology at our fingertips in every facet of our lives, from mobile phones to computers, to 24 hour television and apps, we do need to be careful about what our children are exposed to.  No, we cannot protect them from everything all the time but we do need to be aware of what they see because children are sponges and they soak it all in – the good and the bad.

Good role models and positive influences in the media are rare.

I want  my children to be confident in their choices.  I want them to know that they can reach for the stars and succeed.  I want them to dream big and not feel that dream isn’t good enough or ‘cool’ enough.  I want them to feel free to be them, not what a programme or musician or latest Z-list personality tells them to be.

Positive role models don’t exist any more.  There is nobody, not one person I can think of in mainstream media who will positively encourage and inspire young, impressionable children.

The media encourages disrespect, over-sexualisation, a culture of aiming low or not at all.

Children grow up thinking the way to achieve their dreams is not through practise and hard work and determination, but by queuing up for a reality show for someone to tell them whether than can be a success or not, whilst being berated and belittled in front of millions.

WAGs and manufactured pop stars whose only talent is limited clothing and a provocative dance routine are held in high esteem.  Forget the singing.  They don’t need to be able to do that.

Footballers, the self-appointed, megalomaniacal mini-gods who believe they can treat anyone how they want because of who they are, are put on a pedestal.  Talent not required.

Two-minute reality TV celebs whose bad boy/girl behaviour hitting headlines is their only way of ensuring their fame continues are not who I want my children to emulate.

These are not the role models I want my children to have.

There are no aspirations there.  There is no encouragement or inspiration. The message these ‘role models’ send out is that by being a sexual, provocative, bullying, disrespectful lad or ladette, you’ll be cool.

As long as you’re cool you’re successful.

Or as Rachel from Confessions of a Stay at Home Mum put it, ‘It’s okay to be a dumb-ass because you’ll be a famous dumb-ass.’

Where are all the positive role models for our children?

Who is there who can encourage them that they can be the one to change the world?  Who can tell them that they can achieve anything if they work hard?  Who can show them what a combination of a dream, hard work and determination can do?

Is it over-zealous parenting?


I want my children to know that there is more out there than reality pop shows and soap operas. I want them to know about real life, and real people.  They aren’t criticised or laughed at when they talk about the things they want to do, and nobody is telling them they’re wrong, ot that they’re not cool or that they’ll never achieve their dreams.

The media is good at chipping away at self-confidence.  It is all-powerful in telling you how we should act, what we should wear, who we should listen to, what we should do and what we should think.  And its constant influence through TV, radio, magazines and social media over so many means that this pressure feeds through as a constant drip, drip, drip no matter what we are doing.

Image is all.  Deeds mean nothing.  As long as you look the part you’ll be accepted and popular.

We have a television.  It isn’t completely off limits. But we do need to be mindful of the rubbish – in all media, mind – which feeds our children.  And we do need to be responsible enough to say, ‘Enough is enough!’

Our children should not base their worth on their looks or on their popularity.  Every child needs to know that they can make a difference.  Every child needs to know that they can aim high.  Kids are under a lot of pressure to be accepted.  We need to nurture their self-esteem positively.  We need role models in the media that they can look up to.  We need mainstream media to stop dumbing our kids down.

What do you think?  

Has mainstream media dumbed our children down?  Are there any positive role models any more?  Are our children led to believe that success is how you look, not who you are or how hard you work?  Is the reality TV culture damaging them?  Do parents need to be more vigilant and restrictive regarding what children are exposed to?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.










  1. On the whole I don’t disagree with you but as far as TV is concerned I think there are some amazing role models out there if you look in the right places. Currently primetime BBC2 has Chris Packham and the whole Springwatch team. I would also point to Professor Brian Cox and any of his recent series and Ian Stewart who is passionate about geology and the planet. Perhaps this isn’t what you had in mind by ‘mainstream’ media but then I’m also choosy about what my family watches.

  2. I’m not sure anyone particularly aspiring has come out of the reality tv industry but certainly some of my daughters’ role models at the moment I approve of! My thirteen year old idolises Jennifer Lawrence who has said some great things in interviews – things like loving to eat and being unsure of herself! Stuff like that is good for teenage girls to hear! I think anyone who regularly appears on tv and knows they have a young following have a responsibility to be mindful of that following; there are too many out there who act like they’ll do and say anything for a bit of fame. :-(

  3. Alexandra says:

    I do not let my children watch tv because I do not agree to having my children programmed. I’m shocked by the above comments; Chris Packham is a depopulation nut and how is Jennifer Lawrence saying she loves to eat and she’s unsure of herself, in any way something anyone would think was inspiring? People really need to switch off the screens and get a life.

  4. I agree with a lot of what you have said! It is only now I have children of my own, that I realise WHY my Mother didn’t allow us to watch TV shows like The Simpsons and Hollyoaks as children. I watched them as a Teen but she really didn’t like it…and now I cannot stand my children seeing those types of shows.

    I don’t watch many Reality Shows as the people are just completely fame hungry and the producers seem to pick the most dense and irritating people they can find.

    Children need good role models and want to become something other than an Pop Star, Actress..or god forbid they aspire to be a WAG!!

    I also have to agree with Maggie, that there are some great TV personalities out there who are good role models, like Prof Brian Cox, Richard Attenbourough etc.

  5. After the Olympics & Paralympics last summer & the press attention given to our sporting stars I thought there may be a shift in media focus to these positive role models. Our little girls should be looking to someone like Jessica Ennis for inspiration. What better role model, healthy, hard working, an achiever!

    But the media attention has quickly died down & once again we have tales of the incredibly dumb TOWIE forced down our necks.

    I think as parents we are going to have to take the lead on this, push popular media to one side in our households and point our children in the direction of inspirational people.

  6. I’d agree with both you, Tania, AND Maggie. Yes, way too much of the celebrity lifestyle and bodily insecurities is pushed by the mainstream (and social) media. But, there are indeed plenty of good role models in the media, and it really helps if you have encouraged your children from a young age (ie from birth, ideally!) to be interested in important matters rather than superficial ones. Yes, my two boys (12 and 14) now play far too much PS3 with guns etc when they are home in the holidays, but they also completely blank any peer pressure or media pressure to conform. I have always encouraged them to talk about the things they see and read, to retain their spongelike curiosity about life. Reading is key, especially of factual books.

    I bet there aren’t many 14 year olds who phone home breathlessly after their physics lesson to share the exciting things they have learned!

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