You Mean… the Lyrics DO Affect Me?

Posted on: 02/7/08 12:04 PM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s really not that hard to figure out. It’s amazing that so many are blind to it. But here it is, plain and simple: More raunchy music means kids having sex earlier. And the more a song refers to substance abuse… yep, you guessed it… the greater a chance kids will try those substances.

Think about it for a second. If you’re a kid who listen’s to an average of 2.4 hours of music per day (that is the average), and the typical song you’re listening to is talking about stuff that goes on in the bedroom… how do you think this will influence you?

Our kids will tell us, “It doesn’t affect me!”  (If you want to ask them yourself, join us in our survey from this blog and post your results within the next week or two)

Opinions are a dime a dozen. What do studies show?

This article from a while back summarized it pretty well, tying raunchy music to losing virginity sooner:

Teenagers whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs, a study found.

Whether it’s pop, rock, hip-hop or rap, much of popular music aimed at teens contains sexual overtones. Its influence on their behavior appears to depend on how the sex is portrayed, researchers found.

 Songs depicting men as “sex-driven studs,” women as sex objects and with explicit references to sex acts are more likely to trigger early sexual behavior than those where sexual references are more veiled and relationships appear more committed, the study found.

Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

Excellent article, I recommend reading the whole thing. There are plenty of good articles out there on this subject. Some tying TV to teens starting sex early.

But what about the use of substances? Does music really affect that?

The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine just published a new report analyzing the 279 most popluar songs our kids listen to. 33.3% portrayed substance abuse, with an average of 35.2 substance references per song-hour.

Here’s what the experts in this study said:

“There is convincing evidence that exposure to certain media messages increases substance use in adolescents. For instance, viewing smoking in movies prospectively predicts a substantial proportion of adolescent smoking initiation. Similarly, exposure to smoking-related media promotions is associated with smoking initiation. Alcohol use in movies and promotions is also linked to actual alcohol use. While the most frequently studied genres for this research include movies, television, and advertising, health behavior theory strongly supports a link between music exposure and substance use. According to the social learning model, human beings learn not only by direct experience but also by exposure to modeled behavior, such as that represented in popular music.”

And they rapped it up well…

“Music is wellknown to connect deeply with adolescents and to influence identity development, perhaps more than any other entertainment medium.”

Side note: that report was phenomenal. It broke music down by genre. I wasn’t surprised to find that hip-hop and rap were two of the top three that contained the most mention of substance abuse (Country was also very high).

Am I picking on hip-hop and rap?


Why? Well, it happens to be the most popular genre by far. I’ve gone into great detail about this in past articles for sure… and if you don’t believe me, just look at the top 10 Billboard songs or the top 10 iTunes downloads any day of the week. The influence of hip-hop still dominates.

So What Can We Do As Parents and Youth Workers?

1. Find out what your kids think. Ask them yourself. Join us in our survey from this blog and post your results within the next week or two– your results will help us help you!

2. Talk with your kids about this. Note: I didn’t say, “PREACH TO THEM ABOUT THIS!” The emphasis here is more about LISTENING than talking. As a parent, I’m always looking for opportunities to dialogue with my own kids about anything. As a youth worker, I’m always looking for real issues that kids want to discuss. Music is something that they will often be excited to talk about. Use this an open door to discuss our character. (we even linked some great discussions you can use in that blog mentioned above)

3. Parents: Don’t be afraid to take the advice I offered at the bottom of this blog about television. I recommend using two bottons on your remote control often: The pause button, and the “Off” button.

9 Replies to “You Mean… the Lyrics DO Affect Me?”

  1. I have been dealing with this issue for over 20yrs at a week long church camp. I have been discussing it with the kids and we have great dialog. One of the best ways is that I put all the genres of music on a chalk board, then I write a subject like sex on the side. I have the kids then tell me what each genre says about the subject. It’s pretty eye opening.
    The we go to God’s Word and compare.
    Great way to do it!!

  2. I agree wholeheartily. The largest mistake we make as partents and youth workers is to be naive. As a parent of three middle schoolers and a campus minister I just assumed my kids were not listening to any bad music. Then I asked to see their ipods and they were very offensive. At this pint I new I needed to repent and be more into what they were listening to.

  3. Just an addtion to my suggestion on how I deal with the issue of lyrics & music. After we fill out the whole list of how the different genre’s of music deal with drugs, sex, parents etc. We then make a new page and list what
    are the blessings of listening to God and what are the consequences of listening to the messages of the music. It really gets the kids
    thinking. One of the biggest things that my kids came up with that showed up over and over was “guilt and shame”. I use Galations 5:19-23 as reference for comparison. This also works for Movies, books, tv shows.

  4. This is a largely heated topic with most youth. Their response is always but I like this type of music or that and I don’t listen to the lyrics. My answer werther you consciencely listen or not your mind is still recieving the input. Kind of like a computer no matter if your typing info the computer is still rfecieving information. I have found that there is a Chistian alternative to almost every specific band in the secular arena. If your interested look up this website

  5. I am doing a series called Sex, Drugs, & Rock n Roll. I work mostly with urban teens, and I know that I am up for a fight when I get to the music section of my series. I believe Sex and Drugs are heavily influenced by music in our teens life, and I know they will not like me ‘going there’ when it comes to what they are listening to. My take is that God created all of these things, we are the ones that go out of bounds with it.

  6. I have a feeling that there is more of an associative relationship between these 2 things then a causal one. Perhaps listening to “bad” music and doing “bad” things are both a result of something else entirely in someone’s life, rather then one caused by the other.

    Either way, if we spent more time making the Christian life more attractive to kids rather then pointing out all of the flaws with how kids are living now I am certain we’d have a far more receptive audience.

    Let’s show them a life that is incredible and dynamic and life altering and you’ll see kids eventually not having a desire to listen to some of that stuff (not right away but over the long haul).

  7. I realize this was written a while ago, but I would still like to throw in a question…
    If lyrics affect us this much in the “secular world,” why don’t we take a closer look at the theological meanings in our lyrics in the songs we sing in church. I’ve tried this for about a year now and its eye-opening to see how shallow many of the songs we play/sing just because it was released to the Christian market! Shouldn’t the theology in our songs also be of high importance?–just as important as not listening to the lyrics you wrote of?

  8. i agree that lyrics do affect us! it really does … the teens and kids look up to people like miley cyrus and then you see and hear her singing songs like i cant be tamed …saying she has to get her way 24 hours a day ..i go through guys like money flyin out their hands trying to change me but they realize they cant be tamed or saved or changed..what kinda of role model is that does she not know she has kids ur babys looking up to her !!! she needs help!it doesnt make her look good that she goes through guys so easly and she is fine being messed up the way she is !! and all these other songs speaking of sex and wow!!!just sad ! and i dont agree that church songs dont have the message because every church song has a message either ur heart is not in the right place or the person singing it ..isnt singing from the heart and have that anointing.

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