Parents and other adults need to be meaningful role models to children rather than letting celebrities shape their views.
That's according to columnist Ella Whelan, who said most young people find their role models in celebrities.
New research by iReach Insights shows 72% of Generation Z look up to footballers and singers over parents or community leaders.
Ms Whelan told Newstalk Breakfast children heavily rely on celebrities to guide them.
“It’s not just who you might get your style from, or what kind of haircut you might copy,” she said.
“It's actually a real sense of the kind of role models they look to instead of it being maybe your dad, your mam, maybe somebody at school.”
Controversial role models
The reliance on celebrities becomes concerning when children view controversial figures as role models.
“There’s a big discussion around Andrew Tate,” she said.
“I listened to this interview with this young man in England, who’s a fan of Andrew Tate. When he was asked, ‘Why do you look up to him when he said all these terrible things about women?’, he said, ‘No I don’t.
“He said. ‘I just bypass that, but I think he has some really good things to say about being an ambitious young man’.
“We as a society are not giving that young man what he needs in terms of a bit of aspiration, a bit of ambition, so he's turning to this idiot for it.”
Ms Whelan said children need to look to real adults in their lives for guidance, and those adults need more confidence when guiding their children.
“We've got a problem with talking intergenerationally,” she said.
“We feel very nervous about interacting with kids and young people.
“Parents need to get more confident about being back involved in their kid’s life, about taking away the phone and saying, 'What are you looking at?'”
This is essential for children to build real relationships with people around them instead of seeking advice from people they see online, according to Ms Whelan.
“It's not a real relationship that you're having when you're looking to a celebrity,” Ms Whelan said. “Someone who you're never going to have a conversation with, never going to know who the real person is.”
“Part of growing up and understanding what kind of young man or woman you're going to be is knowing what it means to be a real adult.
“That means knowing the flaws, the difficulties, as well as the positives.”