Monday, February 25, 2013

Worry Not. 'Bieber Fever' Is Your Marky Mark Crush.

DON’T freak out. This, too, shall pass. This being your 10-year-old daughter’s, sister’s, niece’s, cousin’s celebrity crush on heartthrob(s) Zac Efron or the Jonas Brothers or Taylor Lautner.

And, of course, the It Idol of the Current Age, Justin Bieber, who is on his "Believe" world tour. Next stop, Wednesday and Thursday (27 and 28 Feb.) at NIA Birmingham in the United Kingdom (

It’s a phase, according to Karen Myers-Bowman, a Kansas State University associate professor in the College of Human Ecology's School of Family Studies and Human Services.

"What we know about adolescents is that they're trying to figure out who they are," says KM-B who has some expertise in the area of child-adult interaction around sex, war and drugs. "The way they do that is through their relationships, including those that are crushes on unobtainable celebrities." (See JB video above.)

Taylor Lautner has caused many young hearts to go pitter patter. Archive photo.

What they are definitely not trying to figure out, is how to run off with Justin after his UK concerts in a couple of days and live happily ever after. It’s just how they relate to the world around them, KM-B says.

"When a girl who is 8 to 10 years old has a crush on Justin Bieber and says, 'I love him,' that means something completely different to her than to a 16-year-old or a 35-year-old," asserts KM-B. "To preteens, it means that everybody likes him and so do I, or that I think he's cute in a giggly kind of way. It does not mean that she wants to start a sexual and emotionally complex relationship with him.”

KM-B traces this strain of idol worship to the 1950s and 1960s when TV, film and music began exploding and converging. "Bieber Fever" is simply a 21st-century version of the mania surrounding Elvis Presley, James Dean, the Osmond Brothers, Fabian, Marky Mark aka Mark Wahlberg, Justin Timberlake, Frankie Avalon, the Jackson Five (The Jacksons Unity Tour will be in concert at NIA Birmingham tomorrow, 26 Feb.) and others.

One caveat: If your girl (or boy) becomes withdrawn, increasingly disengaging from society and cocooning with her crush, then there may be cause for concern. Nobody wants a bad outcome, certainly nothing approaching a Jodie Foster-John Hinckley Jr., David Letterman-Margaret Mary Ray, Selena-Yolanda Saldívar situation.

The Jackson 5, as did the Osmond Brothers below, captured the hearts of many young girls. Archive photo.

In fact, KM-B recommends a chat long before any such events. “If the crush “seems to become a problem, parents first need to express that concern directly to their daughter or son. They need to clearly explain why they are concerned. For example, ‘I see that you are spending less time with your friends and more time on the Internet talking about Justin Bieber. I don't want you to damage your relationships with your friends by ignoring them. Let's invite Jessica over tomorrow after school’."

In the case of a boy child with a little love jones for Rihanna or Miley Cyrus – males are generally less like to share their feelings – KM-B proposes that the parent/parent figure create an environment in which he won’t feel emasculated.

“This means no teasing or belittling for being ‘a girl’ or too feminine or weak when feelings are expressed – especially vulnerable feelings like those related to having a crush,” she cautions. “The parent should model the behavior she or he wants to see in the teen (open sharing about feelings), respect the child's need for privacy, and make him/herself available for the conversations to occur.”

If none of these approaches prove fruitful, seek out professionals at school and/or within the community who have training and experience in such matters. “Of course, KM-B says, “concerns can vary a great deal - from a minor concern (spending too much time tweeting about the crush) to a serious one (the teen sincerely believes that the celebrity is in love with her or she is acting out inappropriate behaviors with peers as a substitute for the celebrity).

The Osmond Brothers, and the Jackson 5 above, were the source of many crushes in their heydey. Archive photo.

“The more serious the concern, the more quickly a parent should seek professional help,” she adds.

Otherwise, let her /him have good, clean fun at the Justin/Rihanna concert – hopefully as you were allowed.

“Parents can use celebrity crushes as an opportunity to discuss romantic relationships with their children.”

Visit to access Justin Bieber’s full concert schedule and get ticket information; visit to access get schedule and ticket information about The Jacksons Unity Tour. Rx

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