Teenagers of the 21st century listen to about 2 and a half hours of music everyday, and a recent study has brought attention to the fact that 1 in 3 of the songs they're listening to contains a reference to drug or alcohol use.
That means for every hour of music listened to, a teenager will hear about 35 references to either drugs or alcohol. Now experts and parents are wondering what kind of affect hearing those references in their favorite music is having on teenagers.
Rock N Roll In The 1950's
The concern over how music about drinking, drugs, or other dangerous behaviors affects its young listeners is hardly a new issue. Parents in the 1950's had similar concern when rock n roll first appeared on the scene and kids across the country couldn't stop listening.
But today things are different, mostly because of the way kids listen to music. With MP3 players and music streaming services that give listeners access to endless artists and songs, teenagers can listen to whatever they want whenever they want, and most parents have no idea.
There are numerous studies that have been done to illustrate how popular media, including music, movies, and television, has a definite effect on the behavior of young audience members. One such study revealed that repeatedly seeing images of people smoking in movies had a direct influence on a child being at a higher risk to pick up a smoking habit themselves.
The same goes for alcohol consumption portrayed in the movies - young viewer are more likely to start drinking if the characters in their favorites movies are shown doing it.
Genre Specific References
A recent study done on the link between alcohol and drug use and pop culture was done at The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Researchers used 279 of the most popular songs of the year from the Billboard charts and determined which songs contained drug or alcohol references and what genre the songs belonged to.
They found that rap music has the highest percentage of references with 77 percent, country music second highest with 36 percent, followed by R&B with 20 percent, rock music with 14 percent, and finally pop music with 9 percent. The study also found that smoking references were not common in most of today's music, with only 3 percent of the Billboard songs containing references to tobacco use.
Mentions of marijuana and alcohol use were the most common in the songs that contained references. The researchers found that there was a very low percentage of popular songs that contained anti drinking or drug messages.
The results of the study are quite interesting, but experts are still not sure how strong the link between drug and alcohol use and music really is. While there have been many studies done on film and portrayals of drinking and drug use, the effect music has on encouraging those behaviors in young listeners still remains mostly unknown.
What we do know however is that music plays a powerful role in the emerging identity of an adolescent, as well as their emotions and memories. Music is a much more frequent presence in a teenager's life as well, with about 16 hours a week spent listening to music on average. Compare that to about 6 hours a week spent watching movies.
More studies are needed to solidify the link between music and unhealthy behaviors in teenage listeners. In the meantime, parents who are concerned about the music their kids are listening to and whether it will influence them to turn to drinking or drug use should talk to their kids. Communication and educating kids about the dangers of drinking and drugs are the most powerful tools for preventing dangerous habits.