When it comes to censorship in music do you think it should be allowed?
From: Tweak, Mason City, Iowa
If you are laissez-faire, if you just let your child listen to or watch whatever he or she wants, whatever is available on screens or ear buds, that's equivalent to saying, "I approve." In other words, by saying nothing, you say a lot. Laissez-faire ends up translating to, "As long as I don't see or hear it, it's OK." And these days, we rarely do hear what they are listening to so it's kind of easy to pretend it's not a problem.
It is. Music lyrics (and yes, rap is music) are rife with four-letter words, messages of women as objects and men as tools, with the glamorization of violence and with sexist, racist and homophobic themes. I do not endorse any of that nor do I think those messages are appropriate for children. But as I wrote in my book, kids, especially preteens and younger, typically do not listen to music for the words. They listen for, well, the music.
To answer your question directly, I don't believe in censorship. But I believe strongly in paying attention. I believe in not being a hypocrite and in weighing in with your kids and in trying to get them to evaluate what they are listening to. I don't believe in making statements like this one, which I clearly remember my mother saying to me: "This isn't music. It's noise." She was talking about the Beatles.
Some of this is developmental. That your preteen is listening to music whose lyrics worry you is a sign that he's trying to separate from you. As soon as you censor it, he'll want it more. Finding ways to get access without your knowledge is easy to do.
Of course, getting your kid to sit down and listen to the lyrics with you is hard to accomplish. When you point out how awful the lyrics are, and even if he listens and realizes you are right, all you accomplish is that he's now defensive and angry and feels you don't understand him. Here's my other problem with censorship: It's akin to saying that it's OK to control access to information.
So what I opt for, and what most professionals recommend, is getting a dialogue going with your preteen or teen. Again, stealing from my own book, I tell about a psychologist who worked out a deal with his 11-year-old son. Whenever the son purchased music, he would give it to his father to listen to that night. The next day, they would compare notes on everything from the beat to the lyrics. When ]the son] liked a song ]the dad] didn't, the dad will ask, "What is it about this that makes you like it?" When the lyrics are particularly offensive to the dad, he might say, "What do you think about what this says about blacks/gays/women?"
In the book, I wrote, "Tom is often surprised by Andy's answers but he keeps his responses neutral in tone. The dialogue has become comfortable enough for Andy that he even revealed to his dad that there are some groups he only pretends to like because his friends like them."
Some of us might find Tom's approach an obnoxious chore. Obviously, he didn't. The point is that by opening a dialogue, you open your child's mind. When you censor, you shut it down.
Here's another strategy from Tom, by the way. He never paid for Andy's music. He would tell his son: "My conscience doesn't let me give you the money to buy music from a group with values so opposite to mine. But I can't stop you from spending your own money on it."
Readers, I'd love to hear how you deal with this issue.
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