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How Can Kids Listen to Music Safely Online?

Words by
Jackie Baucom

JAN 30, 2024

How Can Kids Listen to Music Safely Online?

Music is essential for encouraging healthy development and expression in kids and adolescents. 

Younger kids use music for learning and self-expression — this is why it’s common to find toddlers singing The ABC Song, B-I-N-G-O, or Baby Shark — and music continues to be an important part of a young person’s life as they grow. In fact, the average teen listens to 2.5 hours of music daily. 

There are many joys to sharing music as a family. A child’s proud smile as they nail the words and actions to The Itsy Bitsy Spider proves just how much they find validation and expression through song. Parents can gain a deeper understanding of their kids by listening to their tunes. 

However, ensuring that music is appropriate for your children is crucial to their development. Thankfully, a few great options exist for parents looking to find kid-safe music.

parental advisory explicit lyrics warnings on album covers

Why Explicit Music is Dangerous for Kids

As a parent, we all wonder about the right time to expand our children’s exposure to media, music, and online content. 

Regarding these questions, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Still, research shows that exposure to explicit lyrics in music is associated with adverse changes in social tendencies and schoolwork performance for kids and teens.

In addition, exposure to explicit lyrics, including references to promiscuity, substance use, and violence, affects children’s development and decision-making skills. 

The normalization of unhealthy behavior in music could influence your children to act in similar ways. 

Common Explicit Music Themes

Most mainstream music we hear is written by — and for — adult listeners. Adult musicians use music to discuss and process complex and explicit topics ranging from heartbreak and loss to darker themes such as promiscuity, substance use, violence, peer pressure, infidelity, and the glorification of party culture. 

Because of these common explicit themes, it’s good for parents to pay attention to their children’s music and work with them to make intelligent decisions about their listening habits.

The Impact of Explicit Lyrics

Parents should be aware of the prevalence of references to violence, sex, and alcohol or drug use in modern music. If you don’t listen to modern pop music, you may not know that nearly forty percent of modern popular music features sexual or romantic themes

Through music, adolescents may think they should admire these behaviors. Sexual lyrics can begin normalizing those types of behavior for children and teens. 

little girls sharing headphones and smiling with music notes behind them

Lyrics can expose children to risky behavior, glorify these choices, and contribute to the thought process that they need to make harmful decisions to fit in. 

When it comes to sex, explicit music can include not only sexual references but also present those references in degrading and aggressive contexts. 

Sexually aggressive or demeaning lyrics can teach young men and women to normalize this behavior and can impact how they view their bodies and sense of self-worth. Explicit lyrics can lead to young girls unwittingly objectifying themselves.

Why Explicit Music is Hard to Monitor

Explicit music can be more complicated to monitor than other media sources, such as video or pictures, for a few reasons: 

  • Listening to music is often a private activity.
    • Headphones allow children and teens to listen to music without their parents hearing. While this can be positive in noisy houses, monitoring their music choices is harder. 
  • Music catalogs are enormous and constantly expanding.
  • Music often uses metaphors, wordplay, and modern slang.
    •  It can be hard to understand if your child’s music is appropriate due to the nature of wordplay in music.

Turning Off Explicit Music in Traditional Apps Isn’t Enough

While many music apps have built-in parental controls, these features might not be robust enough to catch all explicit music. 

Explicit music is a designation determined by the artist and record label, meaning platforms that play music don’t always have the information they need to label something as “explicit” correctly. This means even with a filter on to block any music with an explicit rating, music with explicit lyrics can still slip through and be heard by your child. 

The best way to stay informed about what your kids are listening to is to open an honest, upfront dialogue early on. 

preschool kids listening to teacher playing guitar

Let your kids know they can come to you regarding anything they hear in their music. Whether it makes them feel confused, uncomfortable, or intrigued, they should know they have a safe and trusted person to talk those things out with. 

Take the time to inform yourself about music trends and take an active role in learning about what they listen to. 

By being open with your kids, you can help them understand the importance of parental filters and encourage them to avoid explicit music on their own. 

As a parent, it’s up to you to determine what is the best tool for your family, but taking an active role in understanding what your child listens to, as well as looking into robust parent-focused music apps, can be a good starting point for moving beyond built-in parental features.

Why Music is Beneficial to Kids

While it’s essential to get involved and keep an active eye on the music your child listens to, it’s equally important to ensure they have access to appropriate music from an early age. 

Music is proven to help facilitate language learning, increase IQ, improve visualization skills, and improve test scores in young children. 

For older kids and teens, music can provide a way to process emotions, relate to the people around them, promote creativity, and allow them to learn to self-soothe

Music can help teens shape their identity, feel understood, and can provide a way for them to feel connected to others. Exposure to music is also associated with positive learning outcomes

Best Kids Music Players

Most popular music apps will include parental features, but in all these cases you’re dealing with an adult product that tacked on some safety features for kids as an afterthought.

Parental Features

Most music app providers such as Spotify, YouTube, and iTunes offer kids’ versions of their apps or parental features within the base app. 

While these options exist, they can be lacking in features and functionality and sometimes miss the mark by being too focused on music for younger age groups (nursery rhymes, kids bop, etc.) or too lax regarding parental controls.

Either way is a problem: kids and teens don’t get access to the music they actually want to listen to or parents aren’t able to feel confident their kids are protected from the dangers.

Gabb Music

Gabb Music was created in direct response to requests by parents frustrated with those problems.

Built safe from ground up, it offers the world’s most extensive clean music library with songs from the biggest names in music across all genres and decades. But without any explicit lyrics, innuendo, or objectionable album art work or video.

weekly top 30 mix on gabb music

Currently only available on Gabb devices, the Gabb Music library is curated using both smart-filtering technology and human review so parents can confidently give their kids the benefits of music without worrying about the potential drawbacks.

Trust Your Gut 

One of the best music players isn’t an app or a website; it’s you! As a parent, connecting with your kid over some of your favorite, age-appropriate music from your childhood can be a foundational memory-making experience. 

Studies show that sharing music with your child can have a positive impact on your relationship in the future. 

Putting together a playlist of songs can be a great way to turn a car ride into a sing-a-long session for younger kids, or a meaningful way to show older kids you understand what they’re going through.  

Making music a part of your child’s life is valuable to their development and can help them build social, academic, and relational skills. Still, it’s important that parents provide access to safe music that is free of explicit lyrics and innuendos. 

By learning about what your kids are listening to, opening up a transparent dialogue, and showing them where to find age-appropriate music, you can help cut out the negative influence of inappropriate music on these crucial years of childhood development while also helping your child get ahead.

We live in a digital age, so your child deserves the chance to learn how to navigate the online world in a safe way. 

What do you think?

What types of music does your family listen to? Have you shared your favorite songs with your child? Has your relationship been strengthened through a shared love of music? Comment below and let us know.

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