My teen's music has really violent lyrics. Should I worry about the messages he's hearing?

Music is tricky because it's at the center of kids' lives socially and culturally. It can help quieter kids reveal things they normally can't, and it can express emotions turbulent adolescents may not be able to voice. Still, a lot of music features racy or violent lyrics and can glorify drinking, drug use, or violent behavior. Studies indicate that violent lyrics can trigger antisocial behavior and negatively impact at-risk or vulnerable kids.

When your teens want to listen to music with iffy lyrics, there's not a lot you can do to stop them, given the wide availability of even explicit-language music and videos online and through music-streaming services. The best you can do is stay involved in what they're listening to -- even if it hurts your ears. Here are some ideas for talking about violent music lyrics.

  • Share their music. Listening to violent lyrics in isolation is risky, and kids often have earbuds chronically stuck in their ears. Get your kids to share their music, and listen together. 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 worlds, they might be more open to hearing your opinions.
  • Share the edgy stuff from when you were growing up. Go on a trip down memory lane and let them listen to some of the stuff your parents didn't approve of. Music is often a product of its culture, and your music may give you some context for discussing their music and its role in their lives.
  • 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 so 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.  
  • Help them decode what they hear. Music with explicit content is labeled online, but it's still available. When songs use the "N" word, for example, discuss the word's historical and cultural associations and explain why it's derogatory. Sometimes kids need things spelled out.
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Comments

Teen, 15 years old written by G59

Would strongly recommend only good christian rap like WALE and NF and the like another good Christian group is the $uicideBoy$. The name is misleading.
Teen, 15 years old written by Idontfeelright

I believe that music can reflect teens emotions, they could just be listening to it to make themselves feel better. Everyone does it for a different reason. At this point in my life i'm 15 and I listen to a little bit of everything but mostly a genre that people refer to as "mumble rap". This is the rap that talks about drugs, sex, killing, danger and bad ideas in general. Personally this music just makes me feel better. When i'm sad or in a low place I listen to it and it's just lit music that makes the mood better.
Teen, 13 years old written by Meme_Man

Don’t listen to rap. Listen to some Power Metal/Heavy Metal band such as: Powerwolf, Sabaton, Slayer, Iron Maiden, or Metallica. Rap is a degenerated genre.
Teen, 14 years old written by Juliash

I listen to explicit lyrics and music, I'm 14. I am not violent and do not do drugs, yet I listen to songs that involve drugs, sex and drinking. It really depends if the child is mature enough to handle what they're listening to and won't be influenced by it. I only cuss in private or around my friends, and keep it away from adults or elders.
Teen, 13 years old written by BoiFrom2004

It honestly depends on the person, I listen to 2pac, Eazy-E, Snoop Dogg and many other rap artists and I’m still a happy teen but that’s because of me as A person. If you’re Son or Daughter was already violent then probably not a good idea to let them listen to these sorts of songs as it could give them bad ideas.
Teen, 14 years old written by Killermemestar

Definitely not, I listen to Blood on the Dance Floor, My Chemical Romance, Rap rock, Papa Roach, Sick Puppies, metal, and tons of rock music with violent lyrics. Parents will probably reccomend 30,0000 year old music that nobody cares about. Besides, I like making AMVS/PMVs to these songs and I wouldn't do them to really old music...of course not all old music is bad, 80's rock like Kansas and a few other great bands are where it's at and still great today. But it's a lot better than the auto tuned pop music that appeals to 10 year old girls and their moms. Teens can handle violence unless they're a girly girl or have a weak stomach.
Teen, 15 years old written by Laughy_Kitty

I agree I'm 15 and I listen to music about shooting up a school because of bullying I'm bullied and I know that can be how I feel but not how I act. I listen to K-Pop, Blood on the Dance Floor, Green Day, Linkin Park, Black Veil Brides, Falling in Reverse, etc, etc, etc.
Teen, 13 years old written by Beth533

probably not, i listen to music that is extremely vulgar, stuff that glorifies murder, but i am completely against it and i am extremely 'unviolent' i cry if i step on an ant and am disgusted at people who murder (unless its mandatory in self defence), yet ill still listen to violent music, it depends on the teen and if your teen does go 'crazy' or 'violent' it probably means theres something mentally wrong with them because most teenagers should know right from wrong.
Teen, 16 years old written by hannahvv19

most music now is bad so i think parents should monitor what their kids listen to. maybe parents should suggest some good music as an alternative for kids. I think its good to listen to what they're listening to so you can understand how to change their opinion on what to listen to.
Teen, 14 years old written by grace.w4

I think that most songs today have bad messages, and it's hard to find good music that's appropriate. One thing you can do to limit the amount of music like this that your kids are listening to is to not play certain radio stations. I know of a few popular stations that play some really bad music. Playing a CD or music from your phone could be an alternative to listening to these stations. If your kids' behavior isn't changing based on the music that they are listening to, I wouldn't think it'd be a big deal for them to listen to violent music. I also like the idea of sharing your favorite music from when you were young. I think that sharing those songs with your kids could be really beneficial.
Teen, 13 years old written by berkeleyn

Give your children guidelines on what they can and can't listen to. If their music has any cuss words in it, they may begin to say them because they think that it is "cool." The truth is: it's really not "cool." Their music may begin to influence them to do things that they shouldn't because the music says it's ok. The message the music tells, shows kids how to live, even though the message isn't a good one. Check out what they are listening to and encourage them to listen to appropriate music.
Teen, 14 years old written by LexiGeer

I depends on the person. If the child is walking around and sing the song then yes you should worry, but if they have only listened to it a few times then it is not that big of a deal; as long as they are not doing the bad stuff that the song is talking about.
Teen, 14 years old written by livim02

Yes; I think it is okay to let your kids listen to some music but, not too much. I do think it is good to limit the amount of this kind of music to your kids. If you think that your kid is starting to do these things you could take it away from them so they do not get violent with other people.
Teen, 13 years old written by Annabeth253

I think that letting kids listen to music reflecting on how they feel is a good idea because if they listen to music they can get the anger or other emotions out of their systems. Also most kids might just like the beat of the music, not the lyrics. Most violent music like rap have good beats that people will like.
Teen, 13 years old written by carolinerodgerss

I think that most kids listen to music based on the tune, not the lyrics. It might be a good idea to give them multiple music options so they aren't always listening to violent music, but in small doses it is a good way for them to get their anger out and listen to music with a tune that they like.
Adult written by Blevr4life

If you are going to give vague suggestions as to 'what' to do with kids around media issues; please consider giving more specifics, such as exactly "which" questions to ask about music, or "how" to talk about what they're listening to. Some concrete examples of things to ask, or how to start those conversations would be way more helpful than just suggesting that parents do "something", without any real help.