- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2010

Culture challenge of the week: music porn

Nearly every 12-year-old knows Rihanna. And Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Do you?

The music industry today is huge, racking up over $1.5 billion in sales in the U.S. alone — and kids are their target audience. It’s an industry that’s no longer primarily about music. It’s become another avenue for selling porn and sexualizing younger and younger children in the process.

Last week, Mike Stock, one of Britain’s top songwriters and producers, denounced his own industry for marketing music that is “99% soft pornography.” The “music industry has gone too far,” he says.

Mr. Stock, whose own music portfolio in years past included some very explicit lyrics, has changed his tune. He’s a parent now, and in his view, “Kids are being forced to grow up too young” because music videos expose them to explicit images and “sexualize” even young children.

Gone are the days when parents could protect their children from raunchy music by checking CDs for Tipper Gore-inspired advisories. Much of the music’s not just raunchy anymore — it’s explicitly sexual. And it’s only a download away from limitless play on your child’s iPod.

The stars often reach down into the children’s market to cultivate new fans, creating brand awareness among even the youngest children, ensuring future success and million-dollar revenues.

Take, for example, pop star Katy Perry. Wildly popular with the pre-teen set, she has long left her Christian roots behind. On her latest album, “Teenage Dream,” her nearly naked, pornographic romp flashes between beach flirtations and sex in a hotel room. She boasts about resisting record company efforts to tone down her song “Peacock,” baldly sexual in its connotation. The same Katy Perry was just featured on Nickolodeon’s “Kid’s Choice” music awards, guests on “Sesame Street” this fall, and appears in the 2011 kids’ movie, “The Smurfs.” The fourth-grade girls in my neighborhood love her. It’s the kind of purposeful, deliberate, crossover marketing that the music industry has perfected.

How to save your family by monitoring your child’s music

First, understand the problem. Research shows that exposure to sex on TV dramatically increases the risk that children will become sexually active. Music videos multiply the effect, imprinting pornographic images in our children’s minds that replay every time they hear the song. Even with “neutral” lyrics, the stored images continue to do their damage.

Second, monitor. Unplug the iPod from your child’s ears and check song lists. Don’t recognize the songs? Try Pluggedin.com for the latest music reviews. Take the time to become familiar with the latest artists, celebrities, and songs so you don’t rely on vague assurances of older siblings or neighbors that “it’s all right.” Use TV parental controls to block channels that feature music videos or music celebrities.

Third, don’t facilitate bad choices. Pop singers perform to sell-out crowds across the country, even in today’s recession. As one observer noted after Rihanna’s lewd performance, “The children attending these shows must have gotten there somehow.”

Fourth, provide alternatives. We can’t simply say “no” — we need to spend time promoting the good, too. There are many artists who still have high standards and are actually true musicians. Help support them by introducing your children to them. too.

Finally, be consistent. Don’t let battle fatigue wear you down. Our children need to know that we protect them because we love them. And even when we’re tired or worn down, that will never change.

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at rebecca@howtosaveyourfamily.com.