Rihanna, Marijuana, and Role Models

Kids are heavily influenced by the singers and actors they love. I don’t think that comes as a shock to anyone.  Nor should it surprise anyone to know that artists, by nature, love to push the envelope. But there is a fine line between “pushing the envelope” and sending a flat out harmful message to the millions of young fans that love and adore them and pop star Rihanna crossed it this week.

I wanted to post this story last week but for those who are unfamiliar with the story, Rihanna posted several pictures on her Instagram a couple weeks ago from her stay in Amsterdam. The pictures featured the pop singer smoking copious amounts of marijuana with hashtags like “#legalizeit” and “#Amsterdam”.

                                                    Instagram - E Online

At time of writing, Rihanna has close to 30.2 million followers on Twitter and almost 8 million followers on Instagram. How many of these millions of online followers are young and impressionable kids who look up to her?  What age group does she think her music attracts on average? It certainly isn’t marketed towards adults.  With this kind of influence, think of the tremendous amount of good she could do by spreading positive messages, encouraging her young fans to lead healthy lives.  Instead, she chooses to spread potentially damaging messages to our youth.

Things like this upset me, not only as the executive director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and CEO of the American Medicine Chest Challenge, but as a father.  I know we are all trying to keep our children on the path to a healthy lifestyle and it angers me to know that our parenting is being undermined by entertainers our children listen to.

Since Rihanna would prefer to use her considerable influence to glorify drug use, allow me to state some facts about marijuana. THC, a chemical contained in marijuana smoke, can cause drowsiness, loss of inhibitions, loss of coordination, anxiety and paranoia.  In the long term, users have an increased risk of respiratory diseases, decreased memory, and decreased motivation.  The drug can wreak havoc on a developing young brain and cause permanent developmental damage after heavy use.

I hope that Rihanna chooses one day to spread positive messages, rather than the damaging ones she is currently endorsing. But since we can’t control that, let’s instead focus on what we can control: how we raise our kids.

How can we, as parents, show our kids that this behavior is not acceptable, even if the celebrities they look up to say otherwise?  We must become the role models for our kids.  We must lead our children by example, but leave the door open to them for discussion, so when they see  celebrities post endorsements of drug use, they are not afraid to come to us with their questions.

Kids have a lot of figures they look up to, whether it be singers, athletes, or actors. But the most influential role model in their lives should always be their parents. Are you your children’s hero?  It’s not too late!  Start the conversation today.


Posted 7/7/2013 8:00 AM

Beautifully said! Thank you, Angelo!

Tim Greenwood
Posted 10/1/2013 9:41 AM

Hi Angelo: I am a father of four, a cub leader and youth worker and really appreciate what you say here. What we need to find are the Youth out there that are celebrities and are good role models and show you can be drug free and "really cool and happening!" cause you definitely can. Also we have to work togehter and network across North America and the world as this is Global problem. I live up in Canada near Toronto and am really working on this education campaign. Feel free to contact me. I would like to share our ideas, any youtube content (youth friendly) that we create and effective strategies. Think the answer is Education and Empowerment of Youth. Youth can begin to be the ones educating other youth about better choices. Tim Greenwood Toronto, Canada

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