The other day my daughter heard a portion of “Shake It Off” (Taylor Swift) as I flipped radio stations in the car. We listened for a minute and I changed the station, letting her know that I wasn’t sure that it was a kid-friendly song and that I would need to check. She then asked me what “hella” (used in the song) meant since her friends had discussed this at school. So, I checked the lyrics, and we had a conversation about better ways to compliment someone’s hair.
My daughter is only 7, but there is no need for her to be exposed to things before she is ready. I will gladly answer questions and explain what is age-appropriate, but I refuse to allow anyone else to whisper or sing into her little ears without my knowledge.
This got me thinking, so I checked the most recent Billboard: The Hot 100 song list. Each of top five most popular songs used inappropriate language (including words banned by the Federal Communications Commission on live television), referred to drug and/or alcohol use and/or included sexual references (some vague and others much more obvious). I began to wonder, how many parents know what songs are on their children’s playlists? I feel sure that most parents would be shocked to know what songs are on their children’s playlists, what lyrics their children know, and what videos their children have seen.
You see, parents generally do some homework to check on their children. They may talk to the parents hosting a sleepover. They may have an adult accompany their child to a PG-13 movie. They may visit prospective schools and ask questions before enrolling. So, I don’t think that parents intend to expose their children to things that are inappropriate, although they do not often prevent this.
Most children I know (at least by age 9), own some sort of a mobile device which has online access. They can download songs and applications, watch videos, text, research topics, etc. Most parents I know (according to their children) do not actively supervise their child’s mobile device usage. They do not check their playlists, review the applications they use, or check their search history. Most parents do not even ask their children about these things.
I mentioned songs, but don’t forget that videos are tied to these songs. And there is a reason that these videos are not shown on the large screens at church or broadcast on the monitors at the office. The women are often scantily clad, dancing in a suggestive manner, and singing/chanting/rapping about questionable topics.
There is another problem related to music on mobile devices. The devices are designed for private use. Many of our children are plugged in and parents are tuned out.
How can we solve this problem? What can we do to ensure that our children’s song choices are appropriate and that they are protected from topics that are age-inappropriate?
Here are some practical ways to be sure that the right things stick with your child:
- Ask your child his/her favorite songs and look up the lyrics.
- Look at your child’s playlist. Preview some of the songs with your child. If he/she is embarrassed, there may be cause for concern.
- Ask your child what he/she thinks a song means. He/she may have misinterpreted the meaning, and you may have a chance to make sure that he/she receives the correct information from you rather than from a songwriter or artist.
- Look up the videos to your child’s favorite songs. Remember that it’s likely he/she has already seen the videos.
- Have an Open Phone Policy. You likely bought the phone, your child lives with you, and you have the responsibility to be aware of what your child is exposed to. So, let your child know that at any time you may check playlists, texts, browsing history, applications, etc.
- Set phone rules (eg.: what time phone usage begins and ends each day, where phone can be used, what applications are allowed/disallowed, guidelines on texting, what types of songs are appropriate, etc.). Write down the rules and have your child agree to the Terms of Usage.
- Be honest with your child. Some songs are fun and dance-worthy. Some videos are fun to watch. It’s tough to be a Christian sometimes, but it’s important to set boundaries and guidelines for what we watch and listen to. The New Testament reminds us of this: “Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things,” (Philippians 4:8, NIrV).
- Provide song alternatives. Look for Christian groups and songs with appropriate lyrics and messages. Visit NGEN Radio or Billboard’s Hot Christian Songs for ideas.
- Set a positive example by the music you choose.
It’s important that we are aware of what our children hear and see. In order to do this, it’s important that parents are deliberate about knowing what our children are humming, watching, and thinking about.
Let’s become aware of what songs our children hear. Let’s remove the shock and team up with our children learn to make wise musical choices. In doing so, we teach our children life skills and principles for Christian decision-making.