Medical and societal evidence has shown that music has a strong influence on the way people think and act, and some of the deviance we are experiencing among our young people can be attributed to the music they listen to. As such, parents must pay closer attention to this and intervene where necessary to guide them on the right path.
This was the consensus of a panel that gathered recently at the National Union of Public Workers to discuss the topic, The influence of music on today’s youth. Panellists included teacher Randy Eastmond, gospel artiste Arnal Gozzy Goslin and radio personality DJ Timeless.
Eastmond quoted numerous studies that showed a correlation between music and positive growth in children, including the fact that “after a child spends 15 months practising a musical instrument, experts can see changes in the brain, which enhance auditory skills and motor skills”.
Therefore, he said, it was important to get children into music from early.
“Music is the most powerful sound on earth, and the combination of instruments or lyrics trigger emotional sensors such as suspense, anticipation, or excitement.”
The main point of contention was the lyrical content of much of today’s music, which was said to promote deviant behaviour, such as violence, drug consumption and sexual activity among our youth.
In his contribution, Gozzy said much of it was commercially driven.
“Major brands actually fund artistes because they know music can drive a particular culture or lifestyle, so their sales increase in those territories, especially among younger people. A lot of the music out there has the basic message, ‘do whatever you can to make money’, and young people are behaving in that manner. They want money quickly, and are willing to engage in illicit activities to get it.”
DJ Timeless underscored the point of commercialism, stating that “a lot of artistes do things on social media that do not reflect their real lifestyle. For example, I know some people sponsored by alcoholic products who cannot tell you how the product tastes because they are just doing it for the money”.
He also cautioned that there were several avenues by which children could access the music they want to hear.
“When we were growing up and there were certain songs we knew our parents did not want us to hear, we sought them out, and that’s the same thing that is happening today. As a DJ, there are certain songs we would never play on the radio, but it is available on YouTube, on mix tapes, in the minibuses and ZR vans. The trouble is, today’s music is a lot more raw than what we got before. For us, music was just entertainment because our parents, grandparents and the church gave us a moral foundation, but that does not really happen now.”
The panellists agreed that music was at its most impactful on children when they were between the ages of 11 and 14, as what they listen to at this stage eventually forms their identity into adulthood. Gozzy pointed to the results of a study at Emory University in the United States which showed when children between the ages of 14 and 18 watched hardcore music videos for 14 hours a week, “they were three times more likely to get into fights with teachers, one and half times more likely to have multiple sex partners and use drugs, and three times more likely to get arrested”.
Gozzy, who is associated with Echo Nation, an organization aimed at promoting positive values in young people, said “We can help you understand the technology if you cannot relate to it. We can show you how to monitor your children’s phones and block them from looking at certain websites. We must stop treating our children like adults, especially without giving them the right training so they can make good decisions for themselves”.
Eastmond advised parents to examine the lyrical content of the music, since “people may create mind pictures which the writer might never have seen when he put it together.
“Parents must take the time to ask their children what they are listening to, but not in an aggressive manner. They should also share music from their era, since a lot of today’s songs contain samples from older songs, and as you do that, you are vetting the music. You can help children to become critical listeners, to really examine the music and the messages it may be conveying.”
DJ Timeless counselled, “Open your mind; remember you were young once and move from that point of view. Read some of the lyrics, pick words out, put sentences together and show the child what it means, discuss the lyrical content with them. Once you take this approach, you will find they are willing to share.” (DH)