Get the latest in kids’ media, tech, and news right to your inbox
Search by Age and Topic
Follow Common Sense
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 lyricsdepot.com or sing365.com.
- 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.