The Lindsay Lohan Effect

When teenage American girls see people like Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton or Nicole Richie behaving badly, they definitely have an opinion. But although the media says these (in)famous young women are affecting the behavior of our teens, they may be shocked to know that the truth:  our girls are smarter than that. What the media attention does do is desensitize our girls’ opinions about what is shocking behavior and what is not. It does not alter their outlook on what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. This is the good news in that much of our girls’ viewpoint involving the Lohan effect is based on how they were raised. hey listen to what their parents have to say (although they would never admit to that) and they are also very much affected by leaders in their community, including their churches.

Our children learn their values at home, where they always have. Therefore, is it the media or the parents responsible for teens’ behavior? Unfortunately, whatever the cause, the effect is the same: teenage girls today are more likely than boys to perceive potential benefits from drug and alcohol use.

Does the rise of the “bad girl” signal something more profound, such as a corrosion of the culture and a devaluation of sex, love and lasting commitment?  It’s not likely. Adults tend to put an “adult spin” on teenagers that doesn’t exist. Many teenage girls want to look sexy and more mature, not necessarily act that way; they are less vulnerable to media influences that fire up grownups than grownups think. However, what girls see in the media does affect their self-image, especially in terms of their bodies. And girls need some straight-talk about what to do with all the desirability society and the media is loading up on them.

Nearly every teen goes through a phase of rebellion, but after they are done with that they often calm down and return to their roots with greater awareness. If today’s parents spent more time parenting and less time “friending” their daughters, they might see this firsthand. Parents would love for their children to believe that they never did anything wrong, always came home on time, made their beds and never “experimented”. But based on listening to teens, the reality is that it is not what they want. They’re not looking for a “friend” in their parents; they are looking for discipline and stability. They also want to connect with their parents. They DO want to know the mistakes their parents made, perhaps to learn from them. And they want, more than anything, unconditional love. Unfortunately, the reticence or inability of many adults to accept the role of “being the grown-up” is costing our children, and our society, greatly.

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