Music and Your Kids Tips

Listening -- and talking about -- your kids' music is a great way to ensure that your voice is one of the ones your kids hear. By Caroline Knorr
Music and Your Kids Tips

Downloads, videos, MP3s, iPods, YouTube, and live streaming. Most of our kids' music now comes via the Internet. Social networks like MySpace launch artists, and kids link to artists' pages and download songs to their own pages. Videos appear for free or are available to download. Entire careers have been launched on the strength of an amateur musician’s YouTube video. And kids can use music services like Rhapsody or Pandora to stream songs they like.

Music is a powerful medium. It can help quieter kids reveal things they normally can't. It can express emotions turbulent adolescents may not be able to voice. It's also at the center of many social interactions and popular culture movements.

Given the power of music and its potent messages, parents need to decide what their kids are ready for -– and help them decode what they hear. Music with explicit content is labeled online, but it's still available. Sometimes what kids listen to is age appropriate, but even those songs can feature racy or violent lyrics and can glorify drinking, drug use, or violent behavior.

Tips for parents of elementary school kids

  • Be a model for tame music. Your child will sing along with whatever you select, so make sure you choose songs with lyrics you won’t mind your child repeating if you aren't around.
  • Keep an eye on iPods and MP3 players. Take note of what they're downloading and ask them to play their favorite songs for you.
  • Play your favorite music for kids and enjoy together. It's surprising how much kids enjoy listening to vintage tunes. Why not share your oldies but goodies and start them off with the classics?

Tips for parents of middle and high school kids

  • Do your homework before your kids buy CDs or downloaded music. Read some reviews –- including those on the Common Sense Media's music channel – or take a look at the lyrics on sites like or
  • Make some downloading rules. Make sure you agree on what kind of music your children can download. Sites like iTunes allow you to create an allowance for your kids so they can purchase at will –- but remember, if you do this, they are buying without your oversight. If you do decide to create an allowance, check which songs and videos have been downloaded –- and let your kids know that you will check their downloads. If the content is explicit, you’ll know right away because it says so on the display.
  • Discourage stealing music. In addition to legitimate ways to buy music online, there are lots of programs that let kids get it for free. Remind your children that it's wrong to steal music –- after all, don’t they want their favorite artists to get paid for their work? Also, many of these music-stealing programs can open up your computer to viruses and malware.
  • Enjoy music with your teens. Ask your son to plug in his iPod on the next family road trip, or have your daughter burn you a CD of her music for your car. Not only will you get a better idea of what they're being exposed to, but you may also improve your relationship with them. When you show interest in their world, they might be more open to hearing your opinions.
  • Discuss music messages. If you don't like a message, try to open a discussion with your child without being too judgmental -– nothing will make a kid defensive faster than a judgmental parent. It's important that children can challenge what they hear in a song, but they won’t be likely to do it if they think you hate all their music.
  • Ask questions. Don't let music just wash over your kids. Instead, teach them to be critical of music’s messages. For ideas, look at Common Sense Media reviews. Each one comes with a Common Sense Note, which provides parents with ideas about how to talk to their kids about music.


About Caroline Knorr

As Common Sense Media's parenting editor, Caroline helps parents make sense of what’s going on in their kids' media lives. From games to cell phones to movies and more, if you're wondering "what’s the right age for…?"... Read more
How do I talk to my kids about the music they like when I hate it?

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Comments (9)

Teen, 13 years old written by internetlovingteen

Actually the one thing MySpace is still relevant for is in music... plenty of bands and musicians have MySpaces on which they release music... other than that, I'm inclined to agree
Educator and Parent written by Jared Galczynski

COME ON EDUCATORS AND PARENTS! GET OVER YOURSELVES! Know that music isn't racy and just let your kids bombard their brains with rap! Don't listen for bad messages! Don't make any downloading rules! Don't worry about what your kids are listening to! Discourage stealing music, but that's it! Don't enjoy music with your teens! Don't discuss music with your children! Let your kids download what they want, and cover up their heads with headphones! As you have seen on my review pages, I registered as an educator and parent. And I have at least 5 head-phoned radios, and even a Pandora (which isn't parental-controlled because there are no racy songs)!
Adult written by Senser123

I feel music as a whole should go back to being all ages appropriate but in lyrics especially even more so with milder ones than in the past.
Parent written by sakit

Awesome, I love this pretty cool album. You guys are really great. Keep it up. Looking forward to hear more from you. Thanks How to build a presence on Instagram
written by GSN Hatena

Stealing Music is Wrong and it's like Stealing a CD from a Music Store. I don't want anyone to break the law. For illegal Downloading. In 2012 I used Frostwire and it's P2P Filesharing. ...and it's illegal and not do it. Never ever Download illegally.
Teen, 15 years old written by sandra2686646

I just went over this with my friend. I told him that the two things my parents will never be able to prevent me from doing are reading my choice of books and listening to my choice of music. Not because I'm being rebllious or anything but because to me zpluáits a really important in the way I communicate. Alsorenellious because even if I listen to "inappropriate" I'm not going to do all of those things. What I'm getting at is that kida should have a chance to.explore and make mistakes on their
Teen, 15 years old written by ASLgirl

Same on the books. With music, I listen to CCM (Christian Contemporary Music) rock, punk, and hiphop. Once, I was in the car with my dad, playing a CD called Until We Have Faces by Red (CSM has no reviews of their music) and my dad asked if they were Christian. I then had to point out that their music was on a CD of CCM hits. I thought I was gonna be in big trouble!
Kid, 11 years old

wow really parents do that my parents trust me to listin to songs my age. But i have a pandora and i am obssesd with it but on pandora there is this filter that can tune out all the badwords in songs and i have that so it is good.


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