News flash: What teens watch, listen to and read affects their thinking and behavior.
Sound common-sensical? In years gone by, it was. But today, in our increasingly permissive culture, otherwise well-intentioned parents often ignore the obvious. Some even downplay the notion that the media influence behavior at all. Kids are resilient, right? They can see the fakery in lurid music and risqu? movies. But such sentiment rings hollow in the face of those nagging things called “facts.”
Yet another study highlighting this reality was announced this week. A Rand Corporation survey published in the August issue of the medical journal Pediatrics monitored the music choices and sexual behavior of 1,461 teens over a three-year period. The result? According to the organization’s press release, “Researchers found that adolescents who listened to a lot of music containing objectifying and limiting characterizations of sexuality progressed more quickly in their sexual behavior than did adolescents who listened to less of this kind of music.”
The statistics are hardly surprising: 51 percent of teens who listened to music laced with sexual debauchery ended up engaging in sexual activity, compared to just 29 percent of those who listened to little or none of the same types of music. The study also showed that sexually explicit tunes are an equal opportunity offender – teens are influenced regardless of gender or ethnicity, “even after accounting for a wide range of other personal and social factors associated with adolescent sexual behavior.”
The fact that teens who listen to explicit music end up engaging in the types of behavior described in the lyrics is a glaring no-brainer. Entertainment is not some innocuous habit with no impact on the psyche of young adults. Anything and everything we do has an influence on us.
In our amusement-obsessed society, much of our lives is spent in the pursuit of the next big media “thrill.” This is especially true in a youth culture that is steeped in all things entertainment-oriented. With the ever-increasing physical and emotional absence of parents in the home, kids are coming to rely more and more on the words of Madonna and P. Diddy to discern right from wrong.
But the words show only half the picture.
The problem with modern pop music is not only the often-lurid lyrics, but the sound of the music itself. Numerous sociologists, psychologists and behaviorists have documented the fact that the noise of pop music, not just the words, affects the listener. In “Sound Effects,” Dr. Simon Frith outlines this principle, stating, “The sexuality of music is usually referred to in terms of its rhythm – it is the beat that commands a directly physical response.”
Should anyone be surprised at that? Even the term itself – “rock ‘n’ roll” – is a not-so-thinly-veiled reference to a sexual act. There’s no doubt that the noise of pop music is laced with the sensual and has a decided impact on the listener. This is especially true among young people who are steeped in the rock culture. With the absence of parental involvement, music becomes predominant in their world and determines their values.
This issue is even more pressing for Christian parents, who are commanded to fill their minds with the things of God and guide their children in truth. Colossians 3:1 exhorts the faithful to set their hearts on heavenly things, “where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (NIV) The minds of Christians are to be continually renewed in the knowledge of Christ. (Romans 12:2) Does a heavy metal, driving beat really foster setting a mind on things above, especially for an impressionable teen? Given the associations of rock in the secular world, not to mention the psychological and physical implications for the listener, does such music really contribute to positive transformation of our minds?
Polls continually show that most Americans think our nation is going down the tubes morally and that kids are exposed to way too much, way too soon. But there is a major difference between acknowledging a problem and actually doing something about it. How much further research is needed and how many more teen pregnancies are necessary before parents get a clue and realize the responsibility for upholding decency standards in music is theirs?
And so the downward moral slide continues. It won’t stop until parents stand up and take on their God-given role as guardians of what their children see and hear.
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David N. Bass is a 20-year-old Christian homeschool graduate whose columns have been featured on AmericanDaily.com, IntellectualConservative.com and RenewAmerica.us. While attending college through distance education, he interns at a pro-family public policy organization. David’s blog is “The Pundit.”