The best—and worst—celebrity role models for kids

In a recent poll, Miley Cyrus was voted worst celebrity role model for kids. Ian Mendes weighs in with his picks.

Taylor Swift

A new poll conducted in Great Britain this week indicated that Miley Cyrus is the worst celebrity role model for kids.

A whopping 78 percent of parents who were polled said that the wrecking ball-licking pop star was the absolute worst influence on their kids. (In a related story, 22 percent of parents in the UK apparently only know Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana.)

It turns out that Cyrus isn’t liked on this side of the ocean either. When I told my 11-year-old daughter that I was doing an assignment on the best and worst celebrity role models for kids, she immediately chimed in by saying, “Number one on the worst list is Miley Cyrus. She’s always on the cover of magazines doing bad stuff.”

To Miley’s credit, she actually went on The Jimmy Kimmel show last night and poked fun at herself by going undercover to ask random people their thoughts on Miley Cyrus. But as a parental tip, you may want to keep your young kids away from the MTV Video Music Awards this weekend since Cyrus is hosting the show and there’s a good chance she’ll do something outrageous so she can trend on Twitter.

With this latest poll creating a splash, I thought it would be a fun exercise to make a current list of the best and worst celebrity role models for Canadian kids under the age of 12.

The worst

Ariana Grande: Unless you want your kid walking around like a spoiled brat and licking donuts, I would suggest keeping them as far away from this pop singer as possible.

Heidi Montag: In an age where we’re extremely sensitive about body image for young girls, the reality star’s obsession with plastic surgery—and at such a young age—is a terrible message to be sending to our youth.

Floyd Mayweather: Sure, he may be the undisputed greatest boxer on the planet, but his deplorable record for domestic violence and his unhealthy obsession with money make him one of the worst role models in this day and age.

The Kardashians: Kim, Khloe and Kourtney represent the worst in the category of celebrities who are famous just for being famous.

Kanye West: From public outbursts to ridiculous quotes, Kanye is the epitome of a narcissistic celebrity.

Nicki Minaj: According to a report this week, Minaj wants to get married wearing a wedding dress draped in diamonds. Sounds like somebody we can all relate to, right?

Luis Suarez: One of the best soccer players on the planet, Suarez has a history of biting his opponents during matches. So if you’re trying to get your kindergartner to stop biting his classmates, Suarez is probably the worst role model. He has also uttered racial slurs to opponents in the past, so he just doesn’t know how to use his mouth for anything good.

The best

Taylor Swift: Did you see that amazing thing Taylor did for one of her fans last week? That’s OK if you didn’t, because if you wait a few days, she’ll do it again. Her concerts have a positive message for young girls and she always conducts herself as if her parents are watching her every move.

LeBron James: Many basketball fans branded King James as greedy and selfish when he left Cleveland to sign a big money contract in Miami a few years ago. But guess what? James came back to Cleveland last summer and he’s been doing amazing things off the court near his hometown. The latest example: His foundation is pledging to send 1,000 inner-city kids to college as part of a new scholarship program he’s launching. Considering he never went to university himself, this is a very cool gesture and one that should vault him toward the top of any celebrity role model list.

Emma Watson: No longer just Hermione from the Harry Potter franchise, Watson has taken the on-screen role of female hero and brought it into the real world. The HeForShe speech she gave at the United Nations should be mandatory viewing for all kids entering junior high.

Ellen DeGeneres: She tackles a number of issues that are top of mind for today’s youth, especially bullying. Ellen does an amazing job of using her media platform to try and make the world a better place, rather than just trying to use her celebrity status to increase her own profile.

Jordan Spieth: We can all agree that Tiger Woods isn’t a great role model, but golf has a terrific budding star in Spieth. Not only is he the best golfer on the planet, he conducts himself like a champion, even when he loses major events. When he lost the British Open this year, he waited around to watch Zach Johnson lift the Claret Jug trophy and was one of the first people to congratulate him. During the PGA Championship this month, he even went so far as to compliment eventual winner Jason Day on an amazing shot he made—something that is rarely ever done in the middle of a round. If you’re trying to teach your son or daughter how to conduct themselves while playing sports, have them follow Spieth’s lead.

Malala Yousafzai: After surviving a terrorist attack on a school bus where she was left for dead, Malala has emerged as an outspoken advocate for female rights and education around the world. Her book is a bestseller, she has addressed the United Nations and she won the Nobel Peace Prize last year—all before her 18th birthday. Malala is the best example that our role models don’t have to be the creation of a PR firm in Hollywood.

Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising his daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.

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Emma Watson and feminism: Discussing her speech with your sons>
Are you talking to your kids about Malala Yousafzai?