Wednesday, April 29, 2009

iPod alert: Monitoring your teen's music

Our 15-year-old and 13-year-old daughters' iPods are filled with bubblegum pop like The Jonas Brothers, Country/Western faves from their Mom's collection, and some eclectic selections from their Dad, who used to be a music critic. Our 4- and 2-year-olds are easy -- they listen to what we give them (I have a running list of kids' music that won't make my ears bleed). Our 10-year-old is the one who really needs monitoring; he loves to listen to music clips online, where it's far too easy to segue from standing under Rihanna's "Umbrella" to rolling with Li'l Wayne.

My mother spent her formative years in a convent boarding school in India where, when it came to popular music, anything other than Pat Boone was off limits. When I was a tween, my mom allowed me to buy Madonna's first album, but "Like a Virgin" was not allowed in our house -- not appropriate for a young girl, my mom decided -- and Heavy Metal was deemed "too disruptive." (The Grateful Dead was OK, because it was mellow; I don't think she was aware of exactly how mellow, but my brothers, who were major fans, certainly weren't going to point that out.)

Now that I'm the parent, I find myself wishing that the line between "acceptable" and "not-acceptable" music was as easy to find. Lyrics and album covers are one thing, but what stars do in their personal lives is part of the daily news cycle now -- by allowing your child to listen to their music, are you condoning the artists' behavior? With iPods to fill and song samples available for free online and even on your phone, it's much more difficult to monitor what your kids are listening to these days -- how do you help them decide what to buy when it's so easy to leave the parents out of the decision making process?

At U.S. News, Mary Kate Cary solves the problem at her house with a "do not buy" list. "I can't stop them from listening to all rap music, or all hip-hop, or even all pop music. Much of it is fine. Plus, offensive music is everywhere -- friends' houses, on the radio in the carpool, even at the ice-skating rink," she points out. "But I can say we're not going to support certain artists financially, even if it's only 99 cents at a time, by purchasing ring-tones and iTunes of their songs. They don't have to ask permission before every song, but my husband and I reserve the right to audit their iTunes list at any time."

Over at Child Caring, I'm asking readers why and how they monitor their kids' music choices. Do you have a "Do Not Buy" list? What's on it?

1 comment:

MsTesi said...

Speaking as someone who had my music HEAVILY monitored as a teen, I feel like it is completely unnecessary. I do not think that with proper parental interaction a song can have such a heavy influence on a child as it would on a child without parental oversight. My parents were very much involved in my life and I would say they did a great job raising me, but I felt forced to sneak and listen to my music because I saw it as a creative outlet and HAD to have it. I know now that was my "teenage rebellion" phase.

10 years later, as an adult and a parent, I can see where my parents were coming from.