FFFListening to Music and Watching Music Videos

No. 40; Updated January 2024

Listening to music has always played an important role in entertainment, learning, expression, and communication. The amount of time children and adolescents spend listening to music in its various forms has continued to increase over the years. Children and adolescents typically spend 2.5 hours a day listening to music - via radio, phones, streaming services, etc. They also watch music videos of their favorite artists and songs on television and video sharing platforms as visual images can enhance the experience.  

Music often provides enjoyment for children and adolescents, but some studies have shown that the music lyrics and images may have a significant impact on how youth think, feel, and behave. It is important to talk to your child about the themes of the music they listen to so you can connect with them and better understand their experience.

Adolescents often listen to music related to developmental themes important to them such as love, sex, gender, ethnic and cultural identity, independence, friendship, and authority. Negative and destructive themes of some kinds of music can be inappropriate for some children. The following themes, which are featured often in some lyrics, can be particularly troublesome: 

  • Drugs and alcohol use that is glamorized 
  • Suicide as an "alternative" or "solution" 
  • Violence 
  • Profanity 
  • Sex 
  • Devaluing others based on their identity (e.g. race, gender, sexual orientation) 

Parents can use lyrics to discuss important topics . This allows parents to become more engaged and open with their children, providing a safe space to discuss the issues in their everyday lives. Discussing music content can help adolescents better understand their emotions and promote healthy development.  Sharing music between generations in a family can be fun and rewarding. Parents can help teenagers by paying attention to their purchasing, downloading, listening and viewing patterns, and by helping them identify music that may be destructive. An open discussion without criticism is often most helpful. Parental involvement and communication are very important. 

Music is not usually a danger for a teenager whose life is balanced and healthy. If a teenager is constantly listening to music that has destructive themes, it is important to explore if their identity is too involved in the music or its themes.  Platforms such as TikTok have a large focus on music and dance challenges. Reactions to posts may impact self-esteem. 

It is important to focus on what a child reports and how they behave, more than the content of media they consume. If there are changes in behavior such as isolation, depression, alcohol, or other drug abuse, an evaluation by a qualified mental health professional should be considered.