Where do you draw the line when it comes to explicit music?

Ariel writes about the potential pros and cons that come with letting your kids listen to explicit lyrics.

Photo by xiangxi via Flickr.

Each month in the print edition of Today’s Parent, we tackle a controversial parenting issue we think moms and dads can really relate to. Usually, we crowdsource the topic around the table at our editorial meetings, encouraging the parents on staff to dish about their dilemma of the week, or whatever’s a hot conversation topic at their houses. Recently we’ve explored whether or not to co-sleep, whether or not to have a third kid, and, in the May issue, whether it’s okay to let your kids listen to explicit or overtly sexual music.

Eric Alper, a dad who works in the music industry, argues that any and all music is good music. He doesn’t mind watching his daughter dance along to Maroon 5 or Lady Gaga, and even anticipates the day when she’ll prefer expletive-riddled Jay-Z lyrics over everything else.

Cori Howard, on the other hand, recounts her horror at watching her two little kids delightfully imitate the LMFAO video, which features a guy gyrating in a gold lamé Speedo (and lots of other strange and questionable lyrics, I recently discovered after Googling a couple of websites.

Some people might find little kid imitations of age-inappropriate, sexy dance moves hilarious. Others find it totally disturbing. As with many parenting decisions, you soon realize that every family is different, and every kid is different. I didn’t buy my first “contemporary” music until I was at least 11 I think, and it was a Boys II Men tape. (It was the early ‘90s, okay?) Before that, I listened to my parents’ Golden Oldies tapes on a pink plastic boom box, choreographing dance routines in my bedroom with my best friend. (It was mostly ‘60s hits — lots of Beatles, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Del Shannon and Lovin’ Spoonful. So, not exactly kid-appropriate. Yet we turned out fine!)

But these days, I imagine that allowing your kid to listen to “adult” pop hits could be the beginning of a very slippery slope. Does that mean you have to let them listen to (and watch, and read) pretty much everything? There’s so much media at their fingertips. Smartphones, YouTube and the Internet (!) did not exist when I was a kid. (I also didn’t have cable, so I watched way more PBS than MTV.) Does today’s increased accessibility mean you have to keep more of an eye of what kinds of media your kids are consuming?

Then again, maybe giving your kids total freedom of choice and acting casual about it is the best way to show them that “forbidden” music isn’t a big deal. You don’t want to turn your household into a remake of Footloose. And if you essentially censor anything risqué or grown-up in our culture, you’ll have a harder time finding that teachable moment or entry point for all the important discussions that are part of growing up and learning about the world around them.

So where do you draw the line?

Photo by xiangxi via Flickr.

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