Music, Videos and Television: How A Parent Can Monitor Their Child’s Choices Without Limiting their Freedom?

The content of music and music videos can vary drastically depending on the type of music and the message and lyrics of the music. Children are the most influenced age group, and music can have an impact on their development. In addition, parents play a huge role in not only the development of their children, but also making sure their environment is filled with positive areas of influence.

The freedom of children to choose their own music or videos does not have to be compromised as parents work to successfully monitor and guide them in the right direction.

Theoretically, children can be expected to learn from whomever they observe – parents, siblings, peers, or media characters – and many researchers now agree that such observational learning can contribute to both the short-term and the long-term effects of media violence on aggressive behavior. Much of this learning takes place without an intention to learn, and without an awareness that learning has occurred.

From a theoretical standpoint, parents have the potential to be important moderators of the effects of media violence on children. Children and adolescents form attitudes and beliefs and take action as a result of their exposure to media content, but they may also discuss what they see with others – especially parents and friends – and their responses may ultimately be shaped by these interpersonal interactions. Singer and Singer (1986a, 1986b) proposed that when parents take an active mediating approach toward television viewing by their children – including commenting regularly and critically about realism, justification, and other factors that could influence learning – children are less likely to be influenced badly by media content.

Studies have shown that children whose parents discuss the inappropriateness of television violence with them, or restrict access to violent television shows, report lower aggressive tendencies than children whose parents do not discuss television violence or restrict access to television shows. Other findings suggest that either of these types of parental intervention may decrease the importance children give to violent TV, which in turn may lower children’s aggressive attitudes. How parents control their children’s viewing, and what parents do when their children view violence, appear to be one of the most important factors in mitigating the effects of observing violence.

Cross-sectional studies link violent music videos to more long-term maladaptive attitudes and beliefs in youth, but provide no direct evidence on the reasons for this correlation. Studies of music lyrics without video show less consistency. However, the better controlled experiments suggest that understandable violent lyrics can increase aggressive thinking and affect. Music videos are also of concern because these videos are sometimes replete with violence. Even those that do not have explicit aggressive content often have antisocial overtones.

Virtually every media form studied provides ample evidence of the sexualization of women, including television, music lyrics, movies, etc. Music albums contain “Parental Advisory Labels (PAL) for explicit lyrics so that children and parents can see that an album contains lyrics that are inappropriate for certain ages. The music is rated by the artists who make it and their labels. PAL was started as a result of the Motion Picture Association of America giving ratings to movies. Although the intent is good, the process is flawed. There is no definition of “explicit” and the main criteria seem to be strong language or depictions of violence. Many retail chain stores such as Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club refuse to carry albums that contain explicit lyrics labels as a way to label themselves as “family friendly”. This is one way for parents to limit their child’s exposure to bad or influential music lyrics. Today “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content” is embedded as part of the album art and not a label.

One example of support for this labeling system is the controversial album of rapper/actor Ice-T and his heavy metal band Body Count. Their album, and song of the same title, “Cop Killer”, drew tremendous controversy by political and law enforcement officials in June 1992, just two months after the Los Angeles riots. Sales skyrocketed immediately once the controversy was made public, with a 60% sales increase in Los Angeles and as much as 370% in Houston. Eventually, all remaining albums were removed from the shelves and the album was redistributed with a new name and the Cop Killer song removed.

A recent study by Nielsen Online revealed:
* Nearly one in 20 teens viewed drug-related videos online during a one-month period; 35 percent were under age 16
* Almost 40 percent of drug-related videos contain explicit use of drugs and/or intoxication.
* Even the youngest kids have access to dangerous online content. More than 8.9 million two- to 11-year old age children viewed video online in August 2008.

Though parents may be monitoring their child’s offline activities, few are paying attention to what they are doing online. Many teens say their parents are unaware of the wide-ranging access they have to risky behaviors once they are in front of a computer screen.

How can you monitor your teen’s video and music downloads?
* Talk to your kids about your own values and expectations about sex and drug use.’
* Keep the lines of communication open
* Establish clear rules about what your kids can watch online and what they can download
* Take an interest in what your kids are listening to and are excited about. If you flat-out reject their love of popular culture, they will be tempted to shut you out completely. Embrace their world, but establish clear boundaries about what you find acceptable and appropriate.
* Watch TV with your children and talk about what happens in the videos
* Monitor what your kids watch or listen to
* Limit the number of hours your children watch TV or listen to music
* Insist that school work and family responsibilities are done before TV or music is allowed.
* Prevent the children from watching violent TV or listening to violent music
* Help them select shows that promote learning and positive development.
* Tell babysitters, caregivers, and family members about rules of TV watching.

There are many areas in society that contribute to the actions of children and music and music videos are no less important in this regard than any other form of media. Parents are their children’s first line of defense in educating and mentoring them to make sound decisions and be able to know right from wrong, whether it’s in a music lyric or somewhere else. The freedom of children to choose their own music or videos does not have to be compromised as parents work to successfully monitor and guide them in the right direction.

About Elizabeth Rojas Brooks

Elizabeth Brooks completed her Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University of Southern California, and is currently pursuing a Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology. Because of her own background, Beth has developed a level of compassion and understanding for the less fortunate, the wounded and the misunderstood. Her journey to recover from her own past has led her to pursue her passion – helping others who have had similar experiences. Beth’s goal is to work in the area of violence and abuse prevention and addiction recovery. She also has a special desire to assist our service men and women who are struggling with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

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