How Music Can Affect Teenage Behavior

Most people wouldn’t try to dispute the power of music. We like to listen to upbeat music to workout or pump ourselves up or sad songs when we’re feeling down. But, beyond these surface-level emotional influences, music can have a far greater impact, particularly on teenagers. And it makes sense when you think about it—troubled teens generally aren’t listening to hymns and Christian rock.

While listening to metal bands or rap won’t transform your teenager into a delinquent overnight, music can influence your teen behaviorally, socially, and mentally, both negatively and positively.

Research On How Music Affects Teen Behavior

Rather than debate about the importance of music and rely on anecdotal evidence to support theories about how music affects teenagers’ behavior, let’s review a couple of studies on the subject.

For instance, the International Journal of Adolescence and Youth published a literature review that synthesized studies on the role that music played in adolescent development. One of the points made was that music helped influence teens’ sense of identity.

The author argued that identifying with a particular type of music helped teenagers sort themselves into groups—ethnic minorities would use traditional cultural music to come together, while others took on aspects of their music subculture, such as dressing in baggy, grungy clothes for teens who identify with punk or grunge music. Along with influencing identity, the researcher said that there was an aspect of behavior modification that comes with listening to music—and the modification isn’t always positive.

Lyrically, music can also have a significant impact on teenagers. Research published by Pediatrics—the official journal for the American Academy of Pediatrics—indicated that children could be greatly impacted behaviorally, socially, and academically by the music they listen to regularly. More explicitly violent or sexual music can influence teens to engage in that kind of behavior, as well as music that promotes substance abuse.

How To Encourage Responsible Music Consumption

With a better understanding of how your teen can be impacted by music, there are steps you can take to encourage responsible music consumption to positively influence your children.

Model Uplifting Music At Home

The kind of music that is in your home can set the tone for your family. While teens may deliberately try to listen to the opposite of what you play at home, the model you set with music will still make an impact.

Talk About Impact Of Music

You don’t have to sit your teen down and lecture them about how music influences them. For one thing, all that will do is likely to get your teen to roll their eyes and tune you out. Instead, try to bring it up naturally.

Say that the two of you are in the car listening to the radio. A lot of hip hop and rap music speaks very disrespectfully of women, and you can take a moment to point out any standout lyrics. You can mention that it would be incredibly inappropriate to talk about someone that way in everyday life. This tactic can also be done to point out funny lyrics, like Justin Bieber’s song Intentions, which has a lyric that says, “Heart full of equity / you’re an asset.”

Encourage Musical Talent

Rather than having your teen simply be a passive consumer of the culture, emotions, and ideas transmitted by music, you can encourage them to express themselves musically. This expression may come from playing an instrument—instruments such as the guitar, keyboard or piano, or drums—singing, composing music, or in other ways as well.

With your encouragement, and maybe a few ideas to get your teen’s creativity going, your teen can start to shape their identity positively using music.

Provide Access To A Variety Of Music

There are a variety of music streaming apps and websites, such as Pandora and Spotify. With access to these music streaming platforms, your teen can branch out their musical tastes, rather than listening to whatever is popular—especially as popularity often does not correlate with wholesome music.

Have Everyone Make A Playlist

A fun activity your family can do together is to challenge everyone to make their own playlist, though you may have to limit how extensive the playlist can be. Then, take turns while doing a family activity like painting or putting together a puzzle and listen to the various playlists.

The whole family can learn more about each other this way, and your teen can experience more musical variety in a positive, affirming setting.

As you set the tone—literally and figuratively—in your home, you can help your teen become a more conscientious consumer of music.

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