Pandora Internet Radio
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Pandora is a streaming music site. Users must be 13 to sign up for an account to use this music site and app. Registration is free but you'll need to enter your name, ZIP code, birth year, gender, and a password. You can't add profile info through the app -- you'll need to log on to a computer to do that -- but you can make your profile private by unchecking a box during registration. (If you don't, the profile will be visible to everyone; the site's social-networking component lets users follow each other's activity and shares your listening choices with other users.) Kids can access stations with profanity, sexually charged language, lyrics about drug use, or violence as part of the lyrics. Much of this can be restricted to radio edits if parents set up explicit content filters. Users are also subjected to ads on virtually every station channel, unless they pay a yearly subscription for ad-free content.
What's it about?
Internet-radio site PANDORA puts its own twist on a concept started in the earlier days of the web, when sites such as Spinner (ultimately bought by AOL Music) streamed free, theme-based music blocks. Pandora users create customized stations by entering the name of an artist, a band, a song, or a genre; the service then compiles a music stream with songs or artists that have similar musical qualities. You can't select the order they play in, rewind, or skip more than a few songs an hour, but Pandora can serve as a way to discover new music.
Is it any good?
The Pandora app and website are similar: Both can help introduce you to new artists whose songs share musical elements with singers and bands you like, using information from the Music Genome Project, which has been analyzing harmony, rhythm, and other track details since 2000 to identify song similarities. You can create up to 100 unique stations; just key in an artist (anything from Beck to Beethoven), and you'll hear a mix of that artist's tunes and other music. You have less control than on sites such as Spotify -- Pandora only lets you skip a few tracks an hour, and you can't ask to hear certain songs -- but that's half the fun. Pandora has a nifty habit of combining familiar favorites with hidden musical gems from relatively unknown musicians and bands from other eras. Click on the thumbs-up or -down icons to indicate which you like. Pandora uses the input to customize your stations.
There's a catch: As on many music-streaming sites and apps, the profiles and site usage information aren't as private as some parents might like. Strangers can easily access your stations and listening activity and can post comments on your profile. You can hide your profile and listening info if you alter the default privacy settings on the website -- but all the stations you've created will still show up if someone searches for you on the site with the email address you used to register for Pandora. Even with this issue, Pandora is a great way to check out and find new artists or songs that you'll really like.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about constructive ways you can express your individual music tastes. If your friend loves a song you can't stand, how can you share your feelings without hurting hers?
The site lists elements that the songs it plays on each station have in common. Which musical elements do you notice when you listen to a song (the rhythm, instruments, and so on)?
Pandora plays uncensored music (unless you alter your profile settings). When a song on the radio has a word or two bleeped out or removed, do you notice it's gone? If you hear a word or term in a song that you think or know is a curse, does it make you want to say it more?