There has always been a lot of pontificating about athletes and celebrities and their poisonous effect on the impressionable minds of kids eager to emulate them -- especially this year with Wayne Rooney shouting obscenities into a TV camera. But it turns out young children don't care about these people nearly as much as adults do.
From the Guardian:
Simon Brownhill, an education expert at the University of Derby, said children aged eight or below were unable to grasp the concept of role models.
In a survey of 178 men working in nurseries and primary schools, Brownhill found that footballers such as Rooney and others from the Premier League's elite, thought to be idolised by many children, actually have little influence. [...]
"The men surveyed in the study, who work with young children every day, supported the idea that children are more likely to be influenced by people who are their own age, who share the same experiences and who live close by, such as friends and family, rather than by actors or sports stars such as Wayne Rooney. [...]
"A friend who, for example, shows no fear when going on a fairground ride is more likely to be a role model for a youngster."
Of course this survey raises a couple of questions. First, what about kids older than eight years old? (Answer: they're already horrible, so footballers can't make them any worse.) And second, why did they just survey men? Regardless, while these findings might clear Rooney of any unnecessary blame, the fact that kids are most influenced by others their own age means Lionel Messi really needs to remain on his best behavior.