Should you censor the music your teenager listens to? This mom says no.

Should you censor the music your teenager listens to? This mom says no.

I started thinking about the topic of whether I should be censoring my 14-year old daughter’s music this week when I was listening to the new Pink album, “The Truth about Love.”  I don’t consider myself a prude when it comes to music and will listen to pretty much anything.  In fact, I think blanking out the profanity in songs on the radio is rather stupid.  Everyone knows Pink didn’t have a “sh__ day,” she had a shit day.  I was, however, taken aback by Pink’s song “Slut Like You.”  Not that the song needs more explanation than the title provides, but basically Pink is out for a good time, and she doesn’t give a sh__ with whom.

My daughter likes a lot of the popular females on the radio today: Nicki Minaj, Ke$ha, Katy Perry.  Common themes in their music are excessive drinking and sex with a healthy dose of swearing, hardly topics and language that most parents want their freshman daughters pondering.  I started wondering if these songs and their contents have a negative influence on impressionable youngsters, in this case young girls.  Should I be more vigilant about the music my daughter is allowed to listen to?  Aren’t these artists—particularly females who could be potential role models—making casual sex and regular intoxication seem pretty routine?

Now might seem like a strange time for me to start worrying about this topic as my 14-year old is my fourth and youngest child and my third girl.  I’ve never been big on imposing a lot of rules but prefer to just making tweaks when needed.  I’ve been lucky that I haven’t needed to make too many over the years.  Along these lines, I’ve never told any of the kids they weren’t allowed to listen to any particular music, and upon reflection this evening I decided not to change my stance.  Why?  Glad you asked.

1. These songs are everywhere: every radio station plays them, they’re the pump-up music before high school sporting events, the musical guests on Saturday Night Live play them, you hear them on Song Pop (I’m addicted)—they’re literally impossible to escape.  If I try to restrict the music my teens listen to, they’ll be hearing the same songs somewhere else anyway, and I’ll just be the repressive parent who doesn’t understand them.

2. Music is a form of self expression.  Different people like different types of music, and the beautiful thing is that there are as many diverse types of music as there are preferences.  Letting kids choose what type of music they listen to helps them form their own individuality.  My teenage son tends toward Jack Johnson and older Bruce Springsteen, while my older girls have taken a shine to country.  I love that they can find what they like, even if it doesn’t happen to be my choice.

3. They aren’t necessarily going to do what they hear in songs.  I’m a middle aged mom who likes rap, but I have never shot anyone and I don’t sleep around.  I understand that teenagers may be more impressionable than an old dog like me, but my experience with my older girls is that even if they listen to music with language and activities that I don’t condone, it doesn’t mean they’re going to go out and do the same things. 

4. They hear worse at school.  It really doesn’t matter what socioeconomic class you’re in or where your high school is located.  Pretty much every high school is going to have its share of drinking, drugs and other illicit activities.  Even if you keep your teenager from hearing about such things in music, they’re going to have an even closer look at it on an everyday basis.  I don’t mean kids are getting drunk and fornicating in the halls, but from what I understand they may well be talking about it.  As with #3, it doesn’t mean they’re going to make those choices.

5. Parents still have a bigger influence over their kids’ behavior than music does.  Raising kids is a process, obviously.  Ideally parents will still model behavior they want their kids to emulate, and I like to think that even during the moody teenage years I still yield a bit more influence over my kids than a pop star.

I’m glad I thought this through and am comfortable with my decision.  I have two daughters in college, so I’m not completely new at this, and if I were to notice things moving off course I’d probably have to re-evaluate not just music choices but also many other things, as well.  Until that day comes, I’ll let my daughter listen to what she wants.

Filed under: Parenting

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