Explicit pop music is affecting teens negatively.

The Influence of Pop Music on Teens in the United States

by Dosser Handron, Ph.D.

Pop or popular music is contemporary and distinguished from all other genres because it does not have a particular sound but it has sub-genres depending on the stylistic traits. The music sells across the world through mass marketing on television, radio and the Internet, so it is part of many people’s daily lives. Teenagers spend a lot of time listening to music on their mobile phones and mp3 players taking in the lyrics and viewing videos. Mothers ought to be aware of the influence of pop music on their teenagers.

Criminal Activity

A good number of rap artists refer to gangs, guns, drugs and violence in their songs and this may have a negative effect on the impressionable teenagers who listen to them. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that there have been a number of studies that show a positive correlation between rap music and poor academic performance and school violence, electronic music and substance abuse and heavy metal and depression and increased suicidal tendencies. Therefore, although music plays an important role in the socialization of teenagers giving them exposure to new ideas, mothers need to know that repeated exposure to lyrics and videos that overemphasize unlawful and even criminal activities could directly impact upon their teenagers’ behavior.

Sexual Behavior

Explicit music lyrics and videos have been linked to premature and depraved sexual behavior among teens. Music aimed at teens largely has sexual overtones, portraying females as sex objects and males as the relentless pursuers, treating sex as a casual act and introducing depraved ideas of sex such as that it is cool to rape girls, according to NBC News. The videos seem to reinforce this message with women scantily dressed and engaging in sexually explicit moves while men stare at them, throw money at them or sometimes engage in physical contact with them. Unfortunately, because it is so popular, teens seem to think it is acceptable to act in that manner. Mothers need to take a greater interest in what their teenagers are viewing and listening to and take time to educate them on sexual issues so that teenagers do not get their lessons from explicit pop music.

Identity Development

Teenagers identify with certain artists and their lyrics, and this may impact on the way their identity develops. For example, rock artists appear to sing about their problems and the experiences they have had in life, and a teenager who is going through the same thing may not only identify with the music but also the artist and start to mimic their characteristics (See Reference 4). Mothers have to try and find out what type of music their teenagers like and why, so that they can deal with any issues that are brought up when they listen to the music. Opening up channels of communication with the teenager helps a mother to find the best way through which the child can express himself.

Youth Culture

Popular music is associated with the youth culture of the day and a mother needs to draw the right balance between letting the teenager engage in it to effectively interact with her peers and drawing appropriate boundaries between expression and reality. Teenagers spend a good portion of their time listening to pop music either alone or with their friends. Music accompanies teenagers’ interactions such as when shopping, driving or even playing sports, and they bond over common interests in songs and artists. Therefore, while mothers cannot really cut music out of their children’s lives primarily because it is a source of entertainment and social interaction, they need to keep tabs on their teens to ensure that the music only enhances their cultural competence and positively influences their behavior.

About the Author

Dosser Handron is a practicing psychologist and writer.She served as a columnist for the "Tides" and now contributes to various websites. Dosser holds a PhD in psychology from University of South Carolina.

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