Music can bring great joy to people's lives, but the influence of today's pop music on youth might concern many parents. Recent American pop songs contain references to sex, drugs, alcohol or violence. Many songs also glorify rebellion against authority, the degradation of women or self-destructive behaviors. Over time, such subject matter can negatively influence young, impressionable listeners, affecting their moods, opinions and how they think about the world. Since adolescents often listen to music behind closed doors, on iPods, in their cars or at friends' houses, parents have little control over their choices. While some songs may be uplifting for teens, others can increase anger, depression or poor behavior.
The Positive Effects of Pop Music
Certain pop music can positively influence teens, triggering happiness and excitement, instilling confidence or even helping them complete tasks such as household chores or homework. Some teens listen to music to relax after a stressful day. Friends might bond over a favorite artist and collecting and listening to songs together or even attending a concert. Favorite music may inspire teens to dance or exercise, and movement is healthy for their growing bodies. Your teen may enjoy learning the lyrics to favorite songs and may view a particular artist as an idol. Positive, feel-good music can remind children of good memories. In these ways, pop music plays an important role in a teen's entertainment and general social experience.
Musical Choices and Exposure
Although plenty of music is upbeat and positive, many parents worry about the negative influences of other types of music, especially since they don't always have control over their children's choices. According to Tara Parker-Pope, in her 2008 "New York Times" article "Under the Influence of ... Music?," many children have regular access to music out of the earshot of parents. Consequently, children can select music with inappropriate lyrics. Just as TV and movie scenes can influence a person's behavior, song subjects can shape the way a teen evaluates situations and determines right from wrong. Parker-Pope explains that music lacks the actual images that TV and film have, but exposure is more frequent. In other words, people typically hear music more regularly than they watch TV because music plays in the background in various situations. Music can be played while driving, on headphones or while sitting at the computer. Music is played at parties and even in stores. The music a teen chooses to listen to may not line up with a parent's comfort level.
Unhealthy Influence of Hip-Hop
Hip-hop music, which is increasingly popular amongst today's youth, has become a target of parental criticism. This genre of music often contains sexually explicit lyrics and profanity. In her article, "Researcher Cites Negative Influences of Hip-hop," Kathy SaeNgian of the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" explains that hip-hop culture was created in the early 1970s by African-American and Latino youth who were living in poor neighborhoods and exposed to problems like drug abuse, racism and gang violence. These experiences seeped into hip-hop music, and today, the attitudes, fashions, language and general behaviors expressed in these songs has become acceptable and even marketed to teens. The lyrics can perpetuate anger and violence. In the article, SaeNgian interviews Carolyn West, associate professor of psychology and the study of prevention of violence at the University of Washington, who suggests that hip-hop may especially impact African-American female teens, who are typically portrayed as sex objects in this genre.
Parents Should Talk About It
For as long as parents are able to, they should try to monitor the music their children listen to and can discuss the subjects and images they are exposed to in certain kinds of songs. In the article, "Learning to Live With (and Monitor) Her Music," PBS Parents also encourages parents to discuss the messages in the music rather than criticizing their children's music choices. PBS Parents advises parents to talk about the situations certain lyrics are describing so that teens can "dissect the meaning of the song, instead of being consumed by it." If you are able to talk about music with your children from a younger age, you may be able to impact their future tastes in artists or at least impact how they view certain types of music and how strongly they allow themselves to be swayed by negative musical subjects.