Music for children; just what is appropriate?

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Taylor Swift, music, music for children
I would much rather my kids were listening to Taylor Swift than One Direction. Pic credit below.

I’m having another parenting dilemma. It involves music and what singers and groups are appropriate for my children’s ears and eyes.

When I say children, I’m mostly referring to Helen, who is six. Toddler Adams is still a bit young to be influenced by music videos and risqué lyrics. It’s not quite the same for her older sister.

This has been an issue I’ve been aware of since an old work colleague banned his pre-school aged children from watching MTV. He and his wife took this measure after discovering one of their kids gyrating around the living room replicating the kind of dancing you might expect to see in a lap dancing club.

I’m also aware that some of the older girls at Helen’s school are being pressurised by their peers to like the music of One Direction. Needless to say, it’s not the awful (so-called) music of One Direction that bothers me, but the fact these kids feel such pressure and are being mean to classmates who don’t wish to join in.

It kinda came to a head over the weekend when Helen returned home after a swimming lesson. Some music was on the stereo and she asked me to turn it off and put Shake it Off on instead.

It was a song she’d heard on the car stereo on the way back from the pool. I had no idea who the artist was until my wife told me it was a Taylor Swift song. Aware that Swift’s lyrics and image are somewhat cleaner than Lana Del Rey or Lady Gaga’s, I put it on YouTube and watched the video with her, just in case I had to leap in and stop the song.

Aside from a brief clip when swift is dressed as a cheerleader she didn’t reveal any flesh and the lyrics were clean. The video featured some amusing and wholesome dance moves that Helen was keen to copy. Phew, on this occasion all was good.

It won’t, however, always be this way. I feel very uncomfortable at the overly-sexualised way many pop videos are produced. It’s unnecessary and I don’t want my kids exposed to it.

More to the point, Helen is literate and like all kids her age knows exactly how to use a tablet computer. I could set her up so she is listening to the music of Taylor Swift but answer a knock at the door and return to find her listening to Cypress Hill or Cradle of Filth. Worse still, I may actually find her listening to One Direction.

Rather like television, it’s just one more thing I’m going to have to police. It just comes with the territory I guess.

There is, however, one irony to this tale. You’ll note I said that I was listening to music when Helen returned from her swimming lesson. As luck would have it she walked into the living room while I was having a retro moment and listening very loudly to some Jimmi Hendrix. A great musician, but not someone renowned for clean-cut living!

Like this blog? Well have a read of this post about using music to keep my children calm and relaxed, especially at meal times.

Pic credit; Eva Rinaldi. Reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0 agreement. For more information about Creative Commons and links to the agreements, please see my Disclosure page.

9 thoughts on “Music for children; just what is appropriate?”

  1. Fiona @ Free Range Chick

    John, this is a great article and one that I feel fairly strongly about for several reasons. I have quite specific musical tastes, favouring music of the classic rock genre (70s and 80s rock, 90s grunge and nothing since). With that type of music comes many things that I’m happy for my kids to get involved with. Guitars, inspirational songs, melodies, and true talent. I do realise, like you, that many of the artists involved in this genre of music led anything but clean lives, but this is something you cannot possibly know when you hear the opening riff of a head-banging song.

    I cannot stand popular music. I cannot stand The X-Factor, chart music, young people seen on the likes of MTV gyrating and singing songs somebody else composed and wrote. I just detest the ethos of modern-music, the fact that young people aspire to be famous singers without any of the hard work involved in getting there, or the talent. And I hate the images that these people portray, so I would not be happy for my kids to like anything less than some good old Lynyrd Skynyrd. (They’re actually big fans of The Darkness, who are known to throw a profanity or two, but I put the clean songs on for them. Mostly).

    I am thankful that I have no daughters to teach about how to conduct themselves regarding their image. However, I am not happy that I will have to drum into my sons’ heads that the likes of Nikki Minaj and other similar people that I can’t be bothered to name, are not a reflection of the real women they will encounter in real life. They may decide that they’re gay, and save me the hassle of educating them about the perils of women in popular culture!

    Sorry for yet another long, rambling comment. I just love your blog!

  2. I’m glad I only have to deal with nursery rhymes, and CBeebies tunes at the moment. I can’t imagine how I will cope when I have to try and steer my son in the direction of Cradle of Filth or Slipknot, and away from the evils of One Direction.

    As a musician, I hope to introduce him to playing music, and the history thereof, before 1D get their claws into him.

  3. Elizabeth and Alison’s taste in music varies from Disney music (can’t forget Frozen), to High School Musical (Teen Beach Movie is much better), to 1D, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. Thankfully they prefer listening to their music rather than watching the very risque videos on MTV :-S

    I’m not sure though (bearing in mind my experiences growing up) how we would maintain our policing of what they listen to?

  4. Great post. I have Radio 1 on a fair bit, so my kids pick up songs from there and also from doing Wake ‘n’ Shake at school, so with both of those they get the ‘clean’ versions of any songs. When I download music myself, which they may listen to, I always opt for clean versions. They don’t have any interest in watching music videos on YouTube – my daughter does all her viewing on TV and my sons like Mine craft videos and those irritating, but harmless things involving small animals and catchy tunes (like Baby Monkey).
    Only yesterday though my 11yo son asked if he could get Spotify. I must admit to not really knowing what Spotify is, so I said I would have to research it first as I don’t want him coming across swearing and sexual lyrics if he’s managing his own music.
    As an aside, I was slightly shocked that my daughter’s class was dancing to Ed Sheeran’s Don’t, which is pretty much all about sex. The teacher had rather crudely cut out the actual words ‘went off to his room to have sex’, but the rest of the words which implied that stuff were still there. I wasn’t impressed!

    1. I was horrified ot read this too Sarah! Ed Sheeran’s Don’t leaves very little to the imagination. I htink I’d have been having words with the teacher.

  5. Rude boy by Riahana sung by my daughter when she was 12 was scary and when she came out of her school disco at age 10 singing ‘Suicidal’ music is scary but even movies and tv programmes that seem like porn seem to pass over the critics eyes. When you are a parent you see things in different ways.

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