Can Music Be a Bad Influence on Kids & Teens?
Music has the potential to be a major influence in a child's life 2. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average child listens to more than 2 1/2 hours of music daily.
Music has the potential to be a major influence in a child's life 2. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average child listens to more than 2 1/2 hours of music daily. Music does not necessarily pose problems for teenagers who live a balanced and healthy lifestyle, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 2. The site does warn, however, that, "If a teenager is persistently preoccupied with music that has seriously destructive themes, and there are changes in behavior such as isolation, depression, alcohol or other drug abuse, evaluation by a qualified mental health professional should be considered."
Most song lyrics don't discuss dangers of sexual activity, such as unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Instead, music often glorifies promiscuity and promotes gender stereotypes. According to a study published by the journal "Pediatrics" titled "Exposure to Degrading Versus Nondegrading Music Lyrics and Sexual Behavior Among Youth," adolescents who listen to degrading sexual lyrics are more likely to engage in riskier sexualized behavior 16. Degrading lyrics tend to objectify both genders and portray men as sex-driven and women as sexual objects.
Research about whether music can increase a teen's suicide risk is mixed. When song lyrics focus on death and suicide, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry warns that it can make suicide seem like a good solution to problems 2. According to an article published by the journal "Pediatrics," "Heavy metal and some rock music have been associated in some studies with an increased risk of suicide." However, a more recent study published by the "Journal of Youth and Adolescence," states, "It seems that listening to music to express uncomfortable emotions could be a rather effective coping mechanism for girls since it reduces the risk for suicidal behaviors." 178
Listening to lyrics that involve guns, violence and aggressive behavior can have a negative influence on youth. According to a 2003 study published in the "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology," violent lyrics increase both aggressive thoughts and aggressive feelings 4. The study also warns, "Repeated exposure to violent lyrics may contribute to the development of an aggressive personality." 4
Drug and alcohol use is often glamorized in song lyrics and in music videos 13. John Hopkins Children's Center reports that alcohol is portrayed in music videos once every 14 minutes 5. According to a study published in the journal "Pediatrics," "Increased television and music video viewing are risk factors for the onset of alcohol use in adolescents." Music often portrays substance use as cool without showing the negative consequences of addiction 3.
- Pediatrics: Impact of Music, Music Lyrics, and Music Videos on Children and Youth
- American Academy of Adolescent & Child Psychiatry: The Influence of Music and Music Videos
- Pediatrics: Television and Music Video Exposure and Risk of Adolescent Alcohol Use
- Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Exposure to Violent Media: The Effects of Songs With Violent Lyrics on Aggressive Thoughts and Feelings
- John Hopkins Children's Center: Media and Adolescent Substance Abuse
- Pediatrics: Exposure to Degrading Versus Nondegrading Music Lyrics and Sexual Behavior Among Youth
- Journal of Youth and Adolescence: Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Suicidal Risk
- Mofredj A, Alaya S, Tassaioust K, Bahloul H, Mrabet A. Music therapy, a review of the potential therapeutic benefits for the critically ill. J Crit Care. 2016;35:195-199. doi:10.1016/j.jcrc.2016.05.021
- Kordovan S, Preissler P, Kamphausen A, Bokemeyer C, Oechsle K. Prospective study on music therapy in terminally ill cancer patients during specialized inpatient palliative care. J Palliat Med. 2016;19(4):394-399. doi:10.1089/jpm.2015.0384
- Wang W-C. A study of the type and characteristics of relaxing music for college students. Proc Mtgs Acoust. 2014;21:035001. doi:10.1121/1.4902001.
- Ellis RJ, Thayer JF. Music and autonomic nervous system (dys)function. Music Percept. 2010;27(4):317–326. doi:10.1525/mp.2010.27.4.317
- De Witte M, Spruit A, Van Hooren S, Moonen X, Stams GJ. Effects of music interventions on stress-related outcomes: a systematic review and two meta-analyses. Health Psychol Rev. 2019;:1-31. doi:10.1080/17437199.2019.1627897
- Aalbers S, Fusar-Poli L, Freeman RE, et al. Music therapy for depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;11(11):CD004517. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004517.pub3
- Lee KS, Jeong HC, Yim JE, Jeon MY. Effects of music therapy on the cardiovascular and autonomic nervous system in stress-induced university students: a randomized controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2016;22(1):59-65. doi:10.1089/acm.2015.0079
- Lee JH. The effects of music on pain: a meta-analysis. J Music Ther. 2016;53(4):430-477. doi:10.1093/jmt/thw012
- Art-Of-Photo/iStock/Getty Images