Musical tastes change with each generation, leaving many parents in a position of not understanding the music their teens listen to. When it comes to explicit lyrics, however, there is often a controversy surrounding how appropriate certain music is for children. It is not uncommon for parents to express concern regarding the influences that artists and their music might have on impressionable teens.
Popular music artists are commonly looked to as icons, with teens often emulating the fashion styles they see worn by their favorite artists either in real life or through music videos. The Berg Fashion Library makes note of examples of this throughout history, including Madonna’s influence on trends geared toward skimpier clothing in the 90s. Another, more-recent and controversial trend in which music affects style, especially in the teen demographic, is the sagging-pants trend made popular by hip-hop artists.
Your teen’s choices in music can be a reflection of his overall mood or state of being. This can become a reciprocal relationship, with teens gravitating toward music artists who reflect their tastes, while also adopting some of the attitudes portrayed by artists in their music and in real life. At this age, your teen is likely forming a preference for artists that he identifies with, according to Kimberly Sena Moore, board-certified music therapist. And as he begins looking to musical artists for cues on how to cope with certain life issues in his life, he will begin to emulate the feelings and moods he is seeing on a stage or hearing on his iPod.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that some of the biggest concerns for parents involving the influence of music artists on teens includes the glamorization of drug and alcohol abuse, the focus on violence and the degradation of women. One 2009 study suggests that the sexual connotations behind some music may be reason for concern. Headed by Brian A. Primack, of the Center for Research on Health Care at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the study involved a survey of more than 700 ninth-graders who were exposed to more than 14 hours a week of music with degrading sexual lyrics. Results of the study indicated that teens with a preference for songs depicting degrading sexual lyrics had an increased likelihood of engaging in sexual activities themselves.
Strength of the Influence
It is important to avoid blaming your teen's music icons entirely for his actions. While some music artists may have a negative effect on a teen’s behavior, they are not directly responsible for that behavior, according to licensed psychologist Dr. Gail Gross, nationally recognized family and child development expert. Moore recommends setting boundaries on the artists that you feel are inappropriate while looking at your child’s musical influences as a way of better understanding who he is and what he is currently experiencing in his life.