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Teenagers and music

Most people enjoy music and at some time or another we have argued with friends and family over musical likes and dislikes. Teenagers in the sixties had rock and roll, the seventies brought disco punk and rap; the eighties saw Born in the USA and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, political statements through music; the nineties saw hip hop established as mainstream music and attempts to label certain music as adult only, a law later overturned and causing uproar at the time it was brought in. In the 21st century teens have a choice of music to go with their rebellion against society, somewhat confusingly; they have to select their genre of defiance. Music has long been a way to express anger about what is going on around the world, sadness at injustice and an outlet for frustration at being a misunderstood young person.

The problem for many parents this decade is the language of current music, disturbing to some and offensive to others. The ideas expressed in music have a lot of influence over teenagers and their attitude to the world and it would seem that a theme of some songs is obsession with owning cars, taking drugs and having sex. On one level it is bad enough that the teenager is playing their music loud, but far worse when the lyrics of those songs are acutely explicit and can be heard half way down the block.

The teenager can put on their headphones and reduce the noise, but they are still receiving messages about how the world works, that a lot of parents would rather they did not take as reality. Bands and solo artists are role models for teenagers; their fashion is followed, their lives avidly devoured through Twitter and Facebook and they have influence. As a parent you are caught between a rock and a hard place; it is extremely difficult to ban your teenager from listening to particular music and they will see it as evidence of your lack of understanding, but you should not let the messages transmitted in this music go unchallenged.

When teenagers imitate the behavior of hip hop artists, believing that the world of drugs and drink and sex is cool you have to respond. You should challenge the sexism portrayed in music videos and in song lyrics; your daughters need to understand they are worth more than that. You need to talk to your teenager about the casualness with which guns and violence are referred to; your son does not need to grow up thinking it is cool to kill people. Teenagers need to see your view of the world too, that is what parenting is about, giving them a balanced view of life. If they grow up believing in the world portrayed by music, then you will lose them to that word and the problem will no longer be a bit of anti social loud music that disturbs the neighbors.

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