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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What Goes In a Child's Ears Comes Out As ?

I found the young grandchildren watching a popular music video on the computer the other day. It's a beautiful lyric entitled "Don't Call Me No More" by Project Pat featuring the Three 6 Mafia. It seems the kids had just discovered the song on a popular music video site. Here is a sample of some of the lyrics: 

"What you textin' me for, 4AM in the night
And you knowin' that we through, need some wood in yo life?
Don't be booty callin' me, you can keep yo legs closed
Never get this thang again, or yo co*chie'll throw

"Used to be a glamour queen cuz I kept you with some money
I done cut yo water off, now you like a dust bunny
Hoody Hoody hood rat, nuck yo booty real fat
I'm in love with a stripper, let me hit it from the back

"Like this girl Lil' Red, stood me up on some head
She come callin' me now, found out I got that bread
Little girls that be scared, go to church and hit the door
Don't call me no mo' and don't text......(wind down)"

While the colorful street imagery flows with the beat and the song employs an obvious allusion to a popular fairy tale, the portrayal of the speaker's displeasure with a friend is overly crude and full of dominant sexual reference. I don't think the song will be remembered as a serious cultural statement about romance gone sour or as a meaningful parody of vendetta.

What the ?? I know I'm getting much older with every passing day; however, when I realize young children are exposed (exposing themselves) to popular lyrics like this, I am deeply saddened. Some, like the Hip-Hip Summit Action Network, will defend the music video by saying, "It's merely a reflection of social and economic realities, and it is not intended to encourage aggression or to overplay the role of sexual relations." But, the video helps underscore a belief that almost everything meaningful is self-centered, material, and physical in this type of disposable society.

Research On Lyrics

Songs depicting men as “sex-driven studs,” women as sex objects and with explicit references to sex acts are more likely to trigger early sexual behavior than those where sexual references are more veiled and relationships appear more committed," said lead author Steven Martino, a researcher for Rand Corporation in Pittsburgh. ("Dirty Song Lyrics Can Prompt Early Teen Sex," MSNBC, Associated Press, August 7 2006)

The study, based on telephone interviews with 1,461 participants aged 12 to 17, appeared first in Pediatrics.  Most participants were virgins when they were first questioned in 2001. Follow-up interviews were done in 2002 and 2004 to see if music choice had influenced subsequent behavior.

Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

“We think that really lowers kids’ inhibitions and makes them less thoughtful about sexual decisions and may influence them to make decisions they regret," Martino said.

“A lot of teens think that’s the way they’re supposed to be, they think that’s the cool thing to do. Because it’s so common, it’s accepted,” said Ramsey, a teen editor for, a teen sexual health Web site produced at Rutgers University.

“Teens will try to deny it, they’ll say ‘No, it’s not the music,’ but it IS the music. That has one of the biggest impacts on our lives,” Ramsey continued.

The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the U.S. recording industry, declined to comment on the findings.

Martino said pinpointing one cause for teens' sexual behavior was not the purpose of the study. He reported that the researchers tried to account for other factors that could affect teens’ sexual behavior, including parental permissiveness, and still found explicit lyrics had a strong influence. Yvonne K. Fulbright, a New York-based sex researcher and author, said other factors including peer pressure, self-esteem and home environment are probably more influential than the research suggests.

And, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry ("The Influence of Music and Music Videos," AACAP, September 2008) cited the following themes, which are featured prominently in some lyrics, as particularly troublesome:

* Drugs and alcohol abuse that is glamorized
* Suicide as an "alternative" or "solution"
* Graphic violence
* Sex which focuses on control, sadism, masochism, incest, children devaluing women, and violence toward women

Research On Videos

Another one of the first studies to specifically explore how rap videos influence emotional and physical health found teens who spend more time watching the sex and violence depicted in the "reel" life of "gangsta" rap music videos are more likely to practice these behaviors in real life. (R. DiClemente et al, American Journal of Public Health, March 2003

After studying 522 black girls (all already sexually active) between the ages of 14 and 18 from non-urban, lower socioeconomic neighborhoods, researchers found that compared to those who never or rarely watched these videos, the girls who viewed these gangsta videos for at least 14 hours per week were far more likely to practice numerous destructive behaviors. Over the course of the one-year study, they were:

* Three times more likely to hit a teacher
* Over 2.5 times more likely to get arrested
* Twice as likely to have multiple sexual partners
* 1.5 times more likely to get a sexually transmitted disease, use drugs, or drink alcohol.

"What is particularly alarming about our findings is that we didn't find an association with just violence or one or two risky behaviors," says researcher Ralph J. DiClemente, PhD, of Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health. "We found an association with a string of these behaviors."

"When that environment is one that desensitizes us to violence and to treating each other with caring and respect, we see predictable results in young people and in ourselves."  -- Michael D. Resnick
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