Music can be highly influential on persons of all ages. Consider the fact that listening to music while running is so effective at increasing speed and endurance that it’s not allowed in some competitions where racers are competing for major prizes or placements on the most desired teams. For better or worse, music is very influential in our lives. The right score or song in a soundtrack can make or break a movie. A sad song can be a much-needed cathartic push to release tears. Couples spend hours debating the perfect first song for their wedding.
However, adolescents and teenagers are especially susceptible to influences, and that includes music. Since some music glorifies drug abuse, is misogynistic, or reveres violence, it makes sense that parents are worried about what their children listen to. It’s now easier than ever to download or stream just about anything, making those black parental warning labels that many adults grew up with now moot. Few people buy CDs or vinyl anymore, leaving parents with nothing to gauge what their kids are listening to.
What Kind of Influence Can You Expect?
It’s doubtful that a certain song or artist is going to be the sole driving factor in turning a teen into a criminal. However, teenagers are looking for places where they belong, and they may attach themselves to certain songs or types of music. As they search for self-identity, they might resonate with certain songs. Lyrics are often a person’s first introduction to poetry, and they can be very meaningful to teenagers. You might notice your teen adopting a new way of speaking, vernacular, or start swearing.
Music that glorifies misogyny or violence is bound to introduce a litany of new terms and words to a teen’s vocabulary. While in some ways this is harmless, words can and do hurt. Verbal abuse depends on carefully crafted words to hurt and control. If a teen is susceptible to becoming an abuser, in extreme cases music might give them some tools to do so—but the music itself isn’t what feeds the potential of an abuser. Regardless of music, they would find themselves on such a path.
More commonly, teens might find themselves in trouble for repeating hurtful lyrics. Whether they’re caught repeating lyrics in a hallway or etching them into a desk or their notebook, this is common behavior. It can be upsetting to parents at the time, but it’s often the extent of how music will influence them negatively at this point.
The Flip Side
Many parents worry about the dangers of explicit music and lyrics, but don’t overlook the healing powers. For many people, not just teens, music is a means of escape. It puts into words some feelings that can be overwhelming and music can even be an outlet. Music is a form of expression and might attract your teen towards adopting a musical instrument or writing their own lyrics. The poetry of music from greats, such as Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan, might be a gateway into a love of literature.
Music is, and always has been, an outlet. It’s nothing new under the sun, and teens aren’t going to completely change their personality based on the love of a new genre or artist. Rather, music can help them learn and explore who they already are—or who they are becoming. They will be drawn towards songs and artists that are reflective of what they’ve uncovered within themselves.
Studies have shown that the music we listen to between the ages of 14 and 24 is “magical.” It sets the stage for the music we’ll love and return to our entire lives. It’s not a coincidence that many people still adore the same type of music, and maybe even the same artists and songs, which they did in high school and college. The parts of our brains that are developing during that time frame get a little stuck in sentimentality, so take note of what your child listens to in high school but try not to worry about any lasting negative damage.