Schools are the "last bastions" of traditional values in a culture where children are increasingly faced with poor role models, school leaders said on Friday.
One head warned about the dangers of reality shows which appear to offer a "quick fix" to success.
According to a teachers' union today's youngsters need to be taught to sort out their differences in a "rational and restrained" way.
Speaking at ASCL's annual conference in Birmingham, general secretary Brian Lightman said: "Children are faced with a lot of different role models these days, not all of which are the most positive. They see examples on TV, in celebrity culture, of people not speaking the right way and not interacting in a way we would expect people to.
"In many ways schools are the last bastions of those traditional values.
"We do assert old fashioned standards of discipline and we do that unashamedly because we do see it as our job to educate children in that way."
He said that soap operas show "people shouting at each other, using very, very emotive language, everything's very dramatic, histrionic."
Schools try to teach pupils to "understand people's differences in a much more rational and perhaps restrained way," Lightman added.
In her speech to the conference, ASCL president Joan McVittie suggested that schools are teaching many pupils good values because they are not learning them at home.
"Many young people learn their values in schools," she said.
"Sadly some of their parents are unable to provide guidance and often the values provided by their peer groups takes precedence over all else.
"This is a huge responsibility for all of us and top of the responsibility of educating.
"It is a great deal to ask of us, and not neatly pinned down and packaged in sound bites and performance tables.
"And yet this is what we constantly try to do and for which - perhaps the most important part of our job - we gain so little credit."
She added: "So not only do we have to teach about values and responsibility; we have to try and understand the context in which our young people are living and help them back on to the right path when they fall by the wayside."
McVittie raised concerns that TV talent or reality shows promote a "quick fix" in terms of how to be successful.
"We've run an assembly looking at statistics of how many people are successful on the X Factor and then at the same time running the statistics on the relationship between attendance in school, how that impacts on overall GCSE results, and how that then leads on to earning power later on in life.
"We try to work students through the fact that, actually, it's mostly through hard work that you're successful and attain the things that you need.
"Very few people are actually able to walk on to the X Factor and achieve that instant success."
As well as running assemblies on values, many schools also teach lessons where pupils work through various scenarios and discuss how they would respond to them.
McVittie, who is headteacher of Woodside High School in Wood Green, north London, close to where rioting took place last summer, said: "When we talk to our students about rights and responsibilities, what they have to remember is that their rights are not entitled to override those of everybody else - they have a responsibility to think of other people."
Lightman said pupils have to learn that sometimes they have to "restrain your feelings, that you can't just sound off every time you're a little bit angry".
"I think that these things are desperately important in terms of employability skills. Because you're going to have to work with all kinds of people, to learn how to work with people who you may not want to have as your best friend."
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