Last week I heard a song while shopping that immediately clicked with me. It was everything a fun song should be – catchy, happy, upbeat. A few hours later I returned home and added the song to one of my Spotify playlists – only to remove it after I played the song while I was fully paying attention to the words. Graphic sex and substance abuse was certainly not what I realized I had been humming along to – oops!
Research shows that teens who listen to sexually graphic music are twice as likely to engage in sexual activity (1). The research on the effects of violent lyrics are even more alarming (2). If you couple the lyrics with visual (aka, a music video) the influence is so strong that a teen can actually do what is portrayed within two years. Here is the bottom line: if you don’t want your kids to be ‘trashing hotels and getting drunk from the mini bar’, they shouldn’t be listening to that ‘fancy’ song. Period. It goes without question that we need to help our children develop a strong sense of discernment when it comes to music. Let’s face it – you can do the best job filtering possible, and they will still end up hearing music you would deem inappropriate somewhere. But don’t be discouraged – there are things you can do to help your children make the best possible decision when music selection is their choice – and even when it’s not.
So where do you begin?
First, your kids need to know music is powerful, because the combination of the musical beat (the literal vibrations of the music) coupled with lyrics impacts you psychologically on a very deep level. It has the tremendous ability to affect the way you think – which is partly what makes it either so beneficial, or downright dangerous. The music you listen to should never glamorize high risk behavior. Especially when a song is actually deceptive – when you put a happy, upbeat tune to the lyrics of dark addiction, abuse, and sexual promiscuity, you’re tricking people into believing these kinds of behavior won’t affect you the way they’ve been clinically shown to do. Music like this should be avoided at all costs – by you, and your children.
Music should also never leave you feeling depressed – whether it’s melancholy, or simply makes you disatisfied with your life. Especially for teenagers with hormones occasionally (or frequently!) all over the map, it’s important that they keep a positive attitude about their life and circumstances.
Here are 5 questions to ask yourself – and your kids – about music and lyrics.
1. What behavior is being glamorized by the lyrics?
2. Would the lyrics be appropriate for a child to be singing?
3. Does the music (and/or lyrics) cause you to feel melancholy or depressed?
4. Would you do what they are saying in the lyrics?
5. Where do your thoughts go after hearing that song?
Songs and artists often need to be evaluated on a case by case basis (although some are so obvious you can make a blanket statement). Overall, legalism doesn’t work in this area, but discernment does. Ask God to give you wisdom in discipling your kids in the area of music, and entertainment in general. Also, let your kids know you are on their side. You as a mature adult need the same level of discernment with your music as they do with theirs. If your music choices could use some re-considering, do it together, and stick with it. Have fun looking for your favorite music style, with lyrics that are appropriate!