How does Music affect Teens?
Parental angst about teenagers' musical preferences is as old as popular culture itself.
Ever since Elvis first swiveled his hips for 1950s TV audiences, consensus has
zigzagged sharply on how strongly music impacts its teen listeners. Critics see
desensitization toward violence as one major consequence of long-term exposure to
music with antisocial themes, while defenders of popular culture simply view it as one
more signpost in the era of teen rebellion.
Of all popular media forms, only TV commands a comparable degree of teen loyalty, as
a University of Iowa team noted in a 2003 study. This is most evident in grade school,
when TV is the top entertainment choice--a phenomenon that changes dramatically by
the middle and school years. Male and female listening habits are markedly different,
too. Teen males tend to use music for emotional stimulation, while females may look for
reinforcement of an existing mood, the study says.
Historically, much of the concern about music's effects on teenagers focuses on violent
or suggestive musical and lyrical content aimed in their direction. The most famous
example came in 1985, when the Parents Music Resource Center, or PMRC, pressured
the record industry to adopt a labeling system for albums that contained such content.
Noted examples included Prince's song "Darling Nikki," whose female masturbation
reference is credited with prompting PMRC founder Tipper Gore to launch the initiative.
Desensitization to violence and antisocial behavior has been one outcome associated
with a teen's musical choices. Many studies have presumed an increase in reckless,
impulsive behaviors of the sort portrayed in heavy metal music, whose lyrics often
describe the world in stark, depressive terms. Yet such lyrics may have little impact on
teens without pre-existing mental conditions, the Iowa University study cautions. Even
then, the authors contend, more research is needed to establish a definitive conclusion.
Following the Columbine school massacre of 1999, new debate flared about violence in
popular music. Industrial rockers like Marilyn Manson--whose androgynous attire and
shock lyrics are central to his appeal--were cornerstones of both gunmens' collections.
Critics have responded that the 1980s-era labeling system has accomplished little,
because most albums appear without warning stickers, and anyone can buy them,
regardless of content. The increasing role of downloading also effectively makes the
One point is often missed in all the culture wars over teen music, the Iowa University
study suggests. While it is wrong to assume that fans of extreme genres like "gangsta
rap" and heavy metal are troubled, there may be consequences for young people who
lack the skills to cope with academic, family and personal problems. In the authors'
opinion, preoccupation with antisocial music may create a form of "media delinquency"
that aggravates society's problems, rather than solving them.
Why Blame Music?
Why would the media have mentioned the type of music that the killers listen to whether
or not it was not attributing it to the shooting?
The answer is simple: moral panic. The term, originally coined by sociologist Stanley
Cohen, simply means a reaction to something based on a perception, which, in many
cases, is highly exaggerated or even bias.
As put by Manson, he believes that he represents what people are afraid of. Moral
panics tend to thrive off of this. Often based from stereotypes, panics are spread thus
pinpointing a specific group, often unrighteous in doing so. Since panics and fears often
tend to be derived from what we are afraid of (and that is often what we’re
uncomfortable with), blaming a subgroup often seems like the easiest, but not
necessarily the correct, thing to do.
Information taken from: http://www.suite101.com/content/is-music-for-more-than-your-
ears-a42823 and http://www.ehow.com/about_6659041_music-affect-teens_.html