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How Does Music Affect Teenagers?

November 15, 2016 from 
teen music

Music is an inseparable part of our life. With all the variety of its forms, it influences people of any age and social groups, in all times. Probably, the most powerful effect music has over teenagers, their emotions, the perception of the world, themselves and their peers. Every parent knows that music influence on the behavior of teens is quite significant. It can motivate adolescents, inspire them or help to calm down and relax.

Musical tastes change with each generation. Very often, parents don’t understand musical preferences of their children and may even argue with them over listening to certain genres and singers or bands. Back at the beginning of the 20th century it obviously was jazz gaining disapproval of those times’ parents; this fate was later shared by rock-n-roll and punk.

Nowadays, most contentious genres are supposed to be heavy metal, hard rock, and hardcore rap. According to many studies, they may potentially have the most negative effect on teens. Questionable or explicit lyrics and messages of these genres, along with graphics (music videos) containing destructive themes are particularly alarming. According to “Content Analysis of Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drugs in Popular Music” research, hip-hop and country music also are associated with negative messages.

music and teens


Destructive topics

According to American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, destructive ideas contribute to the glamorization of drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, violent or inappropriate sexual messages. Lyrics of songs that advocate substance use, usually also refer to violence and sex themes. In many cases, they gain positive association among teenagers and may have respective consequences.

Influence of music videos

Various studies have proved that adolescents (in particular, teen males) who watch a lot of hip-hop, rap, heavy metal or hard rock music videos featuring violence acts, sex, and/or substance use, are more likely to behave hostile towards their peers, to treat women more aggressively and take aggressive behavior positively in general.

The genre showing much violence and having most explicit language is rap music. As stated in an Emory University study, teens 14 to 18 who watched hardcore videos for 14+ hours weekly were found:

  • 3 times more likely to get into a fight with a teacher;
  • 2,5 times more likely to find themselves under arrest;
  • 1,5 times more likely to drink alcohol, use drugs and get sexually transmitted or venereal disease.

In the book “It’s Not Only Rock & Roll”, the authors claim that music provides teens with a firm cultural identity. To a large extent, it also defines the ways they act, dress, and speak.

In 2005, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researched 279 top songs for teens of that year. Among them, 9% of lyrics in pop, 14% of lyrics in rock, 20% of lyrics in R&B and hip-hop, 36% of lyrics in country and 77%(!) of lyrics in rap mentioned drugs and alcoholMoreover, it’s not only about the lyrics and the explicit music videos. Famous music artists become icons for teens, influencing their lifestyle, though often not in a positive way.

The influence of famous music artists on teens

Many teens try to emulate their favorite music artists’ style by wearing same clothes as stars wear on the stage, throughout music videos or in everyday life. There are many vivid examples of how celebrities affected fashion. For example, Madonna who influenced trends for skimpy clothing in 90’s, or popular hip-hop artists spreading controversial trend for wearing sagging pants.

Most often teens chose that kind of music that reflects their current mood and state of being. In fact, children accept likings and emotions of singers through their music and lyrics.

music influence on teen


As mentioned above, rap or heavy metal songs, and especially music videos may lead to youngsters acting more aggressively towards people around and women in particular. Some may even try drugs or alcohol because their favorite songs keep glamorizing it, or the singers themselves use substances in real life.Of course, music brings not only threats and dangers into a teen’s life. Here are just a few of the numerous positive effects that music has on children.

  • Classical music improves children’s concentration and verbal abilities. Teens who are given classical music training show better verbal memory than their peers, with the results improving as the practice Also, teens who learn to play acoustic instruments, gain more self-esteem. Playing instruments appears to be especially helpful for the children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
  • Quiet background music may help some kids to concentrate and block unwanted distractions while doing their homework. This doesn’t work for all children, but those for whom it is helpful should better choose instrumental music over music with lyrics.
  • Pleasing and soothing music, such as easy listening, retro or classics, promotes tranquility and decreases anxiety, lets the listener feel friendly and happy, and even may treat depression.
  • As one of the simple joys, music may become a mutual interest for friends and help to find something in common with the new peers your child meets.

Tips for parents

Now, when you know how music affects teens, it is really important for you as a parent to be aware, which type of music your child prefers. If tracks or music videos he/she watches contain explicit lyrics and messages, you shouldn’t argue with the kid and ban those. It’s better to explain why listening to inappropriate music may create a negative impression in society. Let your child discuss with you why he/she prefers certain genres of teen music and particular music artists.

Also, encourage your child to listen to classical music and take music classes if this is his/her interest. The best thing you can do is develop a taste in your children for good music from their early childhood.

Be a part of your teens’ digital life and monitor what music videos they watch!



Josh Halliday, The Guardian, Tues October 3, 2017

A Bradford primary school wants the world to know its newfound Sats success is down to giving all children up to six hours of music a week.

Abiha Nasir, aged nine, walks quietly into the small classroom, takes a seat, adjusts her hijab and picks up the drumsticks. A shy smile spreads across her face as she begins to play.

She was just five when she turned up at Feversham primary academy’s after-school clubs, leaving teachers astounded by her musical ability and how her confidence grew with an instrument in hand. Last year, Abiha successfully auditioned for Bradford's gifted and telanted music programme for primary school children, the first Muslim girl to do so. The assessor recorded only one word in her notes: “Wow!”

Abiha’s teachers say her talent might have gone unspotted in many schools, where subjects such as music and art are being squeezed out by pressure to reach Sats targets and climb league tables. 

But at Feversham, the headteacher, Naveed Idrees, has embedded music, drama and art into every part of the school day, with up to six hours of music a week for every child, and with remarkable results. Seven years ago Feversham was in special measures and making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Today it is rated "good" by Ofsted and is in the top 10% nationally for pupil progress in reading, writing and maths, according to the most recent data.  In 2011, the school was 3.2 percentage points behind the national average in English. This year 74% of its pupils achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, against a national average of 53%. It is 7.1 points above the average for reading and 3.4 above for writing. In maths, the school was 2.4 points behind the national average in 2011 and is now 6.5 above it. Its results for disadvantaged pupils are well above average.

The turnaround is even more notable given the makeup of the school: 99% of its 510 children speak English as an additional language, and half arrive at school unable to speak a word of English. The area outside the school gates, Bradford Moor, is one of the city’s most deprived and densely populated neighbourhoods. Nearly three-quarters of the surrounding population are of Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Indian heritage, compared with just over a quarter in the city as a whole, according to the 2011 census. A recent influx of refugees and a longer-term increase in the number of eastern Europeans has added to community tensions in an area where the city council has noted that different ethnic groups “don’t necessarily get on well or treat each other with respect”.

Inside the school gates, however, it’s a different story. Thirty different languages are spoken but the youngsters all learn happily alongside one another. The children practise Shakespeare and the Beatles as well as Muslim worship songs called Nasheeds. They learn Hi Low Chickalow,  the playground clapping game, as well as studying the second world war and the songs of Ahmad Hussain, a Sheffield-born YouTube star who performs for the school every year.

A “tiny percentage” of Muslim parents were concerned about their children listening to pop songs or Christian music, according to Jimmy Rotheram, the school’s energetic music coordinator, but he says those concerns disappeared when they saw the progress their children were making.Once the school’s end-of-year concert would be attended only by a handful of sceptical parents, now it sells out every year. The school’s attendance has increased to 98%, as the amount of music taught to each pupil has risen. Every child will get at least two hours of music a week. As a bare minimum, each child gets a 30-minute music lesson, a half-hour follow-up lesson, plus a one-hour music assembly with a guest musician and group singing. Songs are incorporated into other classes and pupils often sing about times tables, or history.

Idrees, who became headteacher in 2013, admits the new approach was a “big risk” but he says he is now convinced it could transform other struggling schools.

“We were in special measures. We had low staff morale, parents not happy with the school, results were poor and nobody wanted to come here, we had budget issues. It’s a downward spiral when you’re there. If you’re losing kids you’re losing money, then you can’t attract teachers, those you’ve got are depressed. You get monitored by Ofsted every term and it’s all about results, results, results,” he says.

“We could have gone down the route where we said we need to get results up, we’re going to do more English, more maths, more booster classes, but we didn’t. You might hit the results but your staff morale is gone, the kids hate learning. We want kids to enjoy learning.”

The school bases its method on the Kodaly approach, which involves teaching children to learn, subconsciously at first, through playing musical games. Children learn rhythm, hand signs and movement, for example, in a way that will help their reading, writing and maths. Idrees says teachers have found that asking children to memorise passages of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, for example, improves reading and writing.

Lost in the debate around Sats testing and league tables, Idrees says, is the importance of children’s mental and social development. This came to the fore in Bradford two years ago when an 11-year-old at a school on the other side of the city, Asad Khan, killed himself amid claims he had been bullied. Worried parents were knocking on headteachers’ doors across Bradford, Idrees says, concerned about their own children’s welfare.

After Asad’s death, Feversham piloted a project to help children deal with failure, peer pressure and media influences. “A lot of these quiet kids, they don’t know how to deal with emotions, they don’t know how to deal with negativity,” Idrees says. At its most basic, the simple act of game-playing can help children learn social skills such as eye contact and taking turns, while listening to music in an hour-long assembly helps develop their concentration in an age dominated by smartphones and tablet computers.

The focus on creativity has improved results across the school, not just among the musically gifted, Rotheram says, adding that it is “demonstrably more effective than drilling Sats papers”.

“My hope is that headteachers and people holding purse strings, possibly even the people who make important decisions in the government, will read about our school and realise that creative subjects are not mere add-ons but essential for the progress of all pupils.”

Back in class, Abiha bursts into another impressive drum solo – so loud it can be heard from the playground outside. She practises at home, she explains, but only on her dad’s PS3 drum kit and on a tablet computer. Soon she hopes to upgrade to the real thing: “Now he’s going to sell that [PS3] drum kit and buy a real one. He’s making a different room with noise-proofed walls because the neighbours might report us.”

This intriguing form of vocal display is illustrated beautifully by Anna Maria Hefele, a German polyphonic singer who is gifted with the ability to overtone sing. Her explanation and illustration of overtone singing is very well done, especially in showcasing how overtones work with scales.

I’ve seen overtone singing before in a concert with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and a Tuvan throat singer named Kongar­ol Ondar. However, Ondar seemed to just sing the same one or two scales during the performance. The skill is amazing, but Hefele has completely transformed the method and style to be able to create various melodies and (vocal) arpeggios within the overtone capacity.

The great skill of singing a high note and low note at the same time, all within a select scale seems impossible, even after both seeing and hearing it. For Hefele, it’s merely one piece of her musical skillset which also includes instrument performer of piano, mandolin, and harp. Her studies and training in polyphonic overtone singing date back to 2005.


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