A few weeks ago, I watched Maroon 5's Misery video with my 12-year-old son, sitting in stunned silence as a blonde femme fatale headbutted her boyfriend, slapped him across the face, and kneed him in the groin; all the while, he keeps coming back to embrace her. Clearly this isn't a healthy relationship, and to no surprise, it's number 4 on a top 10 list of unhealthy relationship songs released today by the Boston Public Health Commission. I can't imagine there are three others that are worse, but there are. (Check out the full list of 10 worst relationship songs and those that made the list of 10 best.)
It's the second year running that the commission's Start Strong program has released its Top 10 lists, compiled by 25 area teens who go through extensive training on teen violence and serve as educators for about 1,000 Boston middle-schoolers every year.
"Our teens look at the lyrics in the top 100 songs in the Billboard charts," says Start Strong director Casey Corcoran, "to see which ones endorse a healthy or unhealthy relationship." They score the lyrics for relationships that portray such things as drama, disrespect, obsession, sex, and manipulation -- on the unhealthy side -- and fun, support, respect, and trust on the healthy end of the spectrum.
But songs about abuse don't necessarily make the 10 worst list. Sure Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie", where Rihanna sings "I like the way it hurts", grabbed the number 3 spot, but Mary J. Blige's "No More Drama" -- about ending her abusive relationship -- did not.
The point of this exercise is to get teens (and their parents) thinking about the songs and videos they download to their iPods and to get them to consider what constitutes a healthy relationship. Given that 1 in 5 high school girls has reported being physically or sexually abused by a partner and that dating violence is associated with overall violent tendencies, such an exercise is clearly needed.
Ultimately, though, the Start Strong initiative aims to get young people to make better choices in their "media diets." As Corcoran says, a poor diet of song lyrics can affect teens health in "real and measurable ways," desensitizing them to violence and in some cases, encouraging violent behavior.
Parents can't do much to censor what their kids listen to, he adds, and rather than try, they should watch the videos and listen to the songs alongside their kids, using the opportunity as a teachable moment. Rather than sit in quiet shock as I did when watching the Maroon 5 video with my son, parents should initiate those delicate conversations about what's being portrayed.
They can ask their teens what they think about the relationship in the lyrics: What's healthy, what's not, and is it realistic? The man portrayed in the Maroon 5 video, for example, didn't bleed or bruise after getting mauled by his girlfriend.
Even better, teens can download a Boston Public Health Commission form called True View, which allows them to rate how relationships are portrayed in their favorite videos, just like the teens who come up with the 10 best and 10 worst lists.
June 6, 2011
By Deborah Kotz, Globe Staff Bean sprouts are likely to blame for the E. coli outbreak in Germany …
June 4, 2011
By Carolyn Y. Johnson, Globe Staff A drug that blocks production of the hormone estrogen cut breast …
June 10, 2011
By Deborah Kotz, Globe Staff Quick quiz: What's the most dangerous spot in the house? Sure, kitche …
June 9, 2011
By Elizabeth Comeau, Boston.com Staff loading video... (please wait a moment)Requires Adobe Flash …
May 16, 2011
By Deborah Kotz, Globe Staff No question, most of us sit way too much, and that's not good for our …
April 26, 2011
By Elizabeth Comeau, Boston.com Staff Last week, I asked you how you find the time to stay …
June 10, 2011
Greene, Bill Globe Staff/The Boston Globe By Deborah Kotz, Globe Staff I was bummed to hear th …
June 6, 2011
By Deborah Kotz, Globe Staff A new research finding could help parents and public health specialis …