Video games are a popular scapegoat for youthful bad behavior. They’ve been credited with encouraging violence like school shootings and making teens more likely to act aggressively – but this is all speculation. What we do know, though, is that research shows that vicarious killing in video games can actually kill brain cells. That doesn’t mean the fictional environments found in video games should carry all the weight for violence, drug use, and other bad behavior, though. Real life “role models” like celebrities, musicians, and social media stars may carry even more of the blame.
Media Violence – The Big Picture
In order to understand how musicians, movie stars, and other celebrities influence drug use and violence, it helps to look at how young people interact with the media, and the research shows something important: teens pick up the behaviors they’re exposed to. As such, those who watch violent movies but have closer parental supervision are less prone to acts of aggression than teens with little parental supervision. But when parents aren’t or can’t be present with their teens, then they turn elsewhere for their moral messaging. And that’s what leads them into the arms of celebrities, who offer unsavory messages about drug use and violence.
Hip-Hop Stars And Getting High
Though musicians in all genres are prone to glorifying drug use; in many ways, it’s a hazard of the arts. Many creative individuals think that they have to suffer – and feed their suffering with addiction – in order to make great art. In hip-hop and rap music, however, drugs also appear as a way of getting out of poverty. Rappers talk about selling drugs and making a fortune, getting high, and collecting weapons. Overall, hip-hop musicians glamorize drug use from all sides, and many die from an overdose or drug-related violence – just look at Lil Xan.
Lil Xan, a popular young rapper, takes his name from the antianxiety drug Xanax, commonly used illegally for its calming, depressant qualities, but the role of Xanax in rap and hip-hop communities goes well beyond his name. Rather, the drug has spawned an entire subculture known as “Xanax rap” that bills drug use as an aesthetic choice. Musicians credit it with greater fluidity in their production, post pictures of their pills on Instagram, and Xanax and other drugs are widely available at festivals. Drug use is billed as a way of life, and young people want to participate alongside their famous idols.
Are Celebrities Responsible?
Just how much responsibility for teen drug use can we attribute to celebrities? It’s a difficult question, but social media suggests that musicians and movie stars make terrible role models. About 7% of Snoop Dog’s Instagram posts contain drugs or alcohol, though he’s significantly outpaced by the less famous rapper Devin the Dude who promotes substance use in over 23% of his posts, and they’re just two examples out of many. Teens, who do much of their socializing online these days, are constantly inundated by this kind of messaging. It’s hard to imagine that they won’t seek to experiment, even if they’re receiving contradictory lessons at home.
Celebrities can insist they’re just living they’re own lives, and they aren’t responsible for how their fans act, but when millions of teens consider you a role model, it’s impossible for celebrities to discount their role in teen addiction. If they keep making music about drugs and publicly promoting their own addictive behavior, they should be held responsible for encouraging teens to follow in their footsteps.