Today’s culture is not friendly to raising children, especially in terms of exposure to sex. It’s one thing to be able to monitor what’s on the television – and even that gets difficult at times – but another thing entirely when it comes to music. The rise of the iPod/mp3 player, downloadable music and burnable disc has made parental surveillance far more difficult because of the lack of labels and also much more important than it was. What are some things to consider? What can you do?
First, be clear and explicit that if it’s in the house, it’s a privilege and not a right. Two of my own have their own personal players – one an iPod and the other an mp3 player – and even though the elder bought the iPod herself, it was with parental consent and an explicit understanding that there could be unexpected inspections of the contents. And gross failure would result in confiscation.
Kids will trade CDs amongst themselves and even if you can monitor what they purchase, you can’t monitor their friends’ buys. So I do take the opportunity to keep an eye on what’s laying around and have on occasion required that a CD be returned to the owner because of contents. It wasn’t liked, but with the expectation made clear, it happened. What if the CDs are kept in drawers? Again, the kids are clear that while they deserve some respect of their privacy, we have the right to toss their rooms if we deem it necessary.
Besides, that’s one of the reasons that I’m still willing to help them put away clothing.
The simplest way to follow what’s happening in the culture is to simply sit with the kids and watch music videos with them or periodically listen to their favorite stations. Likewise, some station websites will have lists of the most popular and requested songs in a specific period of time. Listen to a few at random and hear what it says. Likewise, purchase your own mp3 player – I’m too cheap to buy an iPod – and load your own favorite music. Offer to share it with the kids and you’d probably be surprised to find that they’re really curious about your taste in music and much more willing to share the contents of theirs as well. I was surprised that my eldest had Queen and Styx on her iPod.
If you can’t understand what’s said, and it hasn’t improved since we were teens, then you can visit a lyrics site. There are any number available and most are up to date on current lyrics. Most lyrics are still fairly innocuous in terms of sexual content, but others are more explicit; even the innocuous lyrics can be surprising given the constantly changing slang.
If you run across phrases that don’t make sense, then the best alternative is to then explore the phrases themselves. And for that exercise, you should visit urban dictionary, a site dedicated to the recording of the most scatological and sexual slang. It is educational, appalling and sometimes even hilarious. I’ve made it a point to visit the site on multiple occasions because of things that I hear from teens and this is from teens in a church and Christian venue.
An Exercise (and the links are explicit, so get ready)
I spent an evening with some teens and the conversation turned to Crank Dat, a then-popular song by Soulja Boy. Some were laughing at the lyrics and others were confused at the "Superman" reference. I was aware of the slang usage of superman so I was able to finally manage the discussion into male/female relationships – and the session would have been a lot worse had I not been aware. I still returned home that night to double check the lyrics of the song and after cross-referencing, was astonished to find that no one had picked up on the "Robocop" term.
This is a practice that you can try with songs chosen at random, so that you have a sense of what’s coming through the ear-buds.
And in today’s world, what’s through the ear-buds can be corrosive so it’s worth the time and effort.