Last week, Jada Pinkett Smith posted a plea on her Facebook and Twitter pages, asking for the media to respect the privacy of young stars.
Jada claimed that social media attention has morphed into disrespectful bullying. “Are we bullying our young artists? … How can we ask for our young stars to have a high level of responsibility if we are not demonstrating that same level of responsibility towards them,” she asked. The comment was accompanied by a photo of Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and Quvenzhane Wallis.
As a mother to Willow, 12, and Jaden, 14, Jada claims she has been monitoring social media very closely when it comes to the way users treat young stars.
“This last week, I had to really evaluate the communication in regard to our young artists in the media…I was trying to differentiate cyber-bullying from how we attack and ridicule our young stars through media and social networks. It is as if we have forgotten what it means to be young or even how to behave like good ol’ grown folk. Do we feel as though we can say and do what we please without demonstrating any responsibility simply because they are famous?”
However, while Jada’s plea was well-intended, her comments are hypocritical considering the position in which she places her own children, who are young stars themselves.
Willow had a hit single (“I Whip My Hair Back and Forth”) by age 10. She also has Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts where she promotes her music and other endeavors.
There is a line between effective promotion and exploitation, and for young stars that line is nearly invisible. Even having these social media accounts is asking for controversy, as the platforms are simultaneously used for the purpose of attracting attention.
As the children of Will and Jada Smith, Jaden and Willow could never live their lives normally, but both kids have received additional attention because they are active in the entertainment industry, where social media exploitation is frequent and necessary.
Take son Jaden for example. Jaden has been in blockbuster movies since 2006’s “The Pursuit of Happiness.” He as also the lead in “The Karate Kid” (2010) and the upcoming “After Earth,” which also stars his father. In a smart move on the part of the Smiths, most of Jaden’s films have also featured Will, meaning Jaden was likely surrounded by a parent even during press and promotion.
However, likely due to his participation in the Young Hollywood scene, Jaden has been seen out and believed to be dating Kylie Jenner, youngest member of the Kardashian/Jenner clan. Kylie is from a family whose business is exploitation, whether through their reality series Keeping Up With the Kardashians, modeling gigs, or endorsement deals.
Kylie, 15, is a model who has been walking runways since age 13 along with sister Kendall, 17. The Jenner sisters are homeschooled and have their own fashion line. They are also known to be friends with Justin Bieber’s weed-smoking BFF Lil’ Twist.
Perhaps Jaden and Kylie relate over having abnormal teenage lives, but Will and Jada are sure putting their son in the line of fire by letting him date a Kardashian.
Jada is certainly correct that the media should exercise more respect and thought when reporting on teenage children. However, as a parent, there’s also a conversation of context. Famous or not, teenagers should use social media responsibly, and parents should monitor their children’s social media presence, as well as the social media of their friends.
Kendall and Kylie frequently post pictures of themselves in bikinis, garnering just the type of negative attention Jada blasts in her letter.
It seems Jada’s real problem is that she can’t simply disable her kids’ Instagram accounts–the conversation will continue. However, she can control how involved her children become in the entertainment industry, to limit the necessary exploitation that comes with it.