Pop Music and Kids

Pop Music and Kids November 30, 2012

From one of our dear friends:

I am growing weary of listening to toddler music in the car.  My daughter will happily listen to classical music at home but not in the car.  She has heard pop music only a couple of times but really seems to love it.
Do you allow your children to listen to pop music?
If yes, then how to you determine what is or isn’t appropriate and how do you enforce this in a consistent way?
And if not, then what do your children listen to? How do you shield them from pop music (when it’s everywhere)?
Finally, what are some good alternatives to the toddler music (Music Together, Making Music, Praying Twice etc)?  It’s slowly starting to drive me crazy listening to these songs over and over and over again.

From my perspective, a little Kelly Clarkson never hurt anyone, but it’s risky to flip on the radio without critically evaluating what’s being played. And right about the time I had decided that all pop music was trashy, either outright or subtly, tonight I was listening to our Top 40 station and heard the above song. Our Top 40 station is known for tending toward the raunchy… Hips Don’t Lie… so I couldn’t believe my ears. Musically-speaking, this isn’t high quality, but morally it’s rather noble. (Kellie, it’s super sappy, don’t vomit.) And that a song about purity can make it onto the charts gives me hope for the coming preteen/teenage years.

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  • Bethany “B-mama”

    JM, I love this song. Such a good one. To piggyback onto your answer, our family also listens to Christian radio. I resisted for awhile, thinking the quality of tunes wasn’t as good (don’t know what I was thinking!) or as catchy (again, ridiculous!). When our car CD player broke after our 2yo shoved 3 CDs into it, I had really no other choice. Almost a year later, I am totally in love with our Christian radio station and the music they play. The songs are current, catchy, could totally be heard on a mainstream radio station, and have the BEST messages. The kids now know the lyrics and will ask about certain ones–“Mom, what does “Glory revealed” mean?” Totally awesome. Artists like Mandisa, Jamie Grace, and tobyMAC are personal favorites.

  • Mary

    How about family folk music – Johnny Cash, Peter Paul and Mary, etc. Also Irish music – the Chieftans., Tim O’Brien. Even some older jazz with lyrics might be acceptable for kids – Fats Waller, etc. Pandora might be a good way to experiement with new music without spending any money on something you aren’t sure your kids will like.

  • Melinda

    What? I could listen to MMPT all day long! 😉 We are big fans of listening to books on tape. Focus on the Family radio theater has great versions of the Narnia stories, etc. Our kids also listen to a lot of Irish folk music. Some of the more contemporary stuff is a little saccharine for me, but the message is generally good. In the classical department, it sort of matters what you are listening to. Ballet music like The Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet are good. (Although beware of the latter: it’s about teenagers eloping… questionable stuff!). Suzuki books 3 and 4 has great music. Now that my kids are older we mostly listen to memory work, Suzuki, etc. in the car. It is all work and no play around here!

  • We let our children listen to pop music, but in a controlled fashion. In the car, instead of just turning on the radio, we play music through my iPhone (using the Sync feature in my Ford). Each of my kids created their own playlist, and I have to approve any songs that are purchased (they earn song purchases by doing extra chores) so there are no surprise dirty lyrics, no yucky commercials and no quick dashes to change the dial!

  • Melinda

    Good suggestions by Mary and The Happy Mother. We often listen to jazz and old classics, too. Happy Mother, what do you use to listen to the ipod in the car? We had a gadget, but it never got good reception. Someone told me that was because we live in a large urban area. Any suggestions? As my comments make clear, I am a classical musician and therefore technologically impaired.

  • JMB

    When my kids were younger we used to listen to a lot of Jack Johnson. He’s pretty tame I suppose. I remember we listened to a complilation of Beatles songs from different artists. We loved a CD of Burt Bacharach songs by Elvis Costello too. Now I basically switch between (and it drives my teens crazy!) the Coffee House, First Wave and 8 on 80s. I know, I’m an old fart at 46, but I refuse to listen to club music or anything about apple bottom jeans.

  • I tune my iPhone through my Sync, so it just plays on my radio. My husband has a sound jack on his car radio, so he just plugs one end of the cord (I have no idea what it’s called) into the jack and the other end into the earbud spot on his phone.

  • Mrs C

    Great suggestions! I wish I could listen to BBC radio all the time but with an assertive toddler (is there any other type?), it’s just not happening. We’re driving home from DC to NYC on Sunday so I will have time to try out both B-mama’s suggestion re Christian radio and Melinda’s recommendation (Focus on the Family radio theatre).

  • Karen

    I totally agree about Christian radio! I am fortunate to have a great station in west Michigan and listen in the car and while cooking. My 4yo son surprised me by singing some Mandisa to himself today:
    “Gonna make me stronger, stronger…”
    Too funny–he is not quite getting the spiritual point, but it works for me!

    Right now, George Winston’s “December” CD of piano music is just right for Advent when I am tempted by Christmas CDs. 🙂

  • Nikki

    My nieces and nephew love their mom’s “Chieftains” station on Pandora, and as an Irish trad musician myself, we do a lot of sing-alongs when I babysit! The best thing about Pandora is that you can customize it as you go, so if any questionable content turns up along the way, you can give it a thumbs-down and rest assured that you’ll never hear it on that station again. 🙂 Other beloved stations include Pete Seeger, Michael Bublé, and Loreena McKennitt. Lots of opportunities for cultural awareness through music, too.

  • Kate e

    My kids current obsession is Mr Rogers CDs, it can get old fast but I love hearing them sing his sweet simple songs so much I put up with it. Our family longtime favorite is Dan Zanes. It’s folk but cool and there are enough variations in his different CDs (he has a broadway songs one, a sea songs one, a spanish language one). We also do Johnny Cash, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Jack Johnson.

  • Sky

    Three more ideas: (1) KidzBop takes the current pop hits, sanitizes the lyrics and has kids sing the songs and do videos – one added benefit is that my daughter still sings the sanitized words if she hears the original song; (2) Sing and Learn Spanish, which is meant for adults but my 1 and 4 year old still like; and (3) Sandra Boynton’s compilations, which are intended for kids but still funny. I tried to go back to radio recently and was stunned at how much is totally inappropriate, even on our “family-friendly” station.

  • We listen to a lot of Kidz Bop. They change some of the lyrics on popular songs to make them more kid-friendly while still having a fun grown up tune. We’ve gotten several CDs at the library and also have a Pandora station.

  • I also have several Catholic artists in Pandora – Matt Maher and Audrey Assad are my current favorites. The artists don’t have to be superstars to create a Pandora station.

  • Donna

    We do not do pop music because there really is no way to control what songs come on. We just listen to 50s music on 50s on 5 and the kids and parents are both happy.

  • Dirk

    Just for anyone researching this subject, I teach elementary music and most pop songs, lyrically anyway, are completely inappropriate for children, but I let my kids listen to it at home. I don’t think it really matters because they really don’t understand the lyrics they just like the tune and dig the chorus. I think back to the 70’s and 80’s when I was a kid and I listened to “If Ya Think I’m Sexy” and “Billie Jean” both with lyrics that would probably be considered inappropriate, but I never thought what it was about, I just liked the tune. I would like to incoporate more pop music into my program but it’s difficult without changing the lyrics-a couple of recent exceptions are Katy Perry’s Firework and Roar. Most of my students listen to this music with their parents so I like to make this connection whenever possible, but it’s tough. As a teacher I keep everything Rated G, but as a parent, PG is fine with me-parental guidance, imagine that! It really depends on what you are comfortable with. I’m not going to put on “Darlin’ Nicky” or anything, but I don’t really care if my daughter hears “Wrecking Ball” (but not the video-gross!)