In a nation obsessed with fad diets and crazy weight-loss promises, former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle inspired millions to accomplish what many only dream of. He lost over 245 lbs. by choosing a sensible eating plan, and for over 15 years he kept the weight off. He became an instant celebrity and an inspiration by overcoming his battle with the scale that had plagued him for most of his life. What he apparently didn’t overcome was his addiction to pornography.
And the news of his alleged criminal activity is everywhere. It’s hard to avoid: “Jared Fogle, ex-Subway pitchman, paid kids for sex on New York trips, prosecutor says.” – Fox News. “Jared Fogle sought out teen sex, child porn“- USA Today
Those aren’t really the headlines I want to have to explain to my kids and discuss, but thanks to media saturation, I’m going to have to.
With reality shows and online outlets, anyone can become a celebrity today, and our society unfortunately idolizes celebrities for nothing more than the fact that they’re famous. Kim Kardashian became famous because she made a sex tape. Period. And while there are many celebrities who find notoriety because of actual talent, there are others who become famous simply because (I believe) people are desperate for real people to inspire them.
This is the case with Fogle. He became a hero to many because of his inspiring story. But because of his fame, our kids will also hear about his failings. Fogle isn’t alone though. Reality TV star Josh Duggar’s continued fall from grace has also been in the headlines this week. No one would know who Duggar was if he hadn’t appeared in the hit reality TV show “19 Kids and Counting.” Duggar is another reminder that “reality TV stars” likely aren’t showing you their reality. They fall. They sin. They are not perfect. And those realities should remind parents that we need to be careful not to prop up celebrities or anyone we don’t really know.
Celebrities cannot really earn our trust and we shouldn’t allow those we can’t trust to have influence over our kids.
Trust comes over time and from spending many quality moments with someone. Trust must be proved. It must be earned. We’re likely never going to have a meaningful relationship with a Kardashian, or Jared, or with any celebrity, which means it isn’t wise to look to them for any sort of real inspiration.
If you want your children to look up to real heroes and be inspired, start having them help at the local clothing pantry or homeless shelter. Introduce your kids to these host families who volunteer to parent children who are in crisis. Read with them stories of people like Dickie Atkinson, who helped liberate prisoners from a Nazi concentration camp. Look for those you know in your circle of influence who have overcome difficult circumstances and are thriving. There are endless examples of people who aren’t celebrities who can serve as role models for our kids — and they likely won’t end up in an embarrassing headline.
It’s also a great time to talk to your kids again about internet security. People who prey on children are always looking for an easy target. In Fogle’s case, the girls he allegedly paid to have sex with were as young as 16 and were contacted online. Many of these underage girls also had conversations via text messages with him. It’s incredibly tragic. If these girls had someone in their lives looking out for them and with their best interests at heart they might have been spared from this whole ordeal. When you’re talking with your kids about this or any story where children have been targeted, engage them with questions like, “How might this have been avoided?” Or “Do you understand why I’m concerned about who you talk to online?”
The headlines this week have been hard to stomach. I wish these weren’t discussions I had to have with my kids, but they are. Scandal sells, so the stories of fallen celebrities aren’t going to go away. And since sin and scandal aren’t going away, it’s better to address them.
When I sit down tonight around the dinner table and bring up this topic I’m not really sure what to expect from my kids. But you can bet that I’ll be asking them for their examples of real heroes and people who inspire them. I can’t wait to hear who they look up to. I really am praying it’s not Kim Kardashian.
Image via APImages