My whole family enjoys Guitar Hero, but I’m concerned about the lyrics – what should I do?

Michael RichMedia expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, answers your questions about media use. Last week, he discussed whether or not children under 2-years old should watch television.

Here’s this week’s question:

Q: Several months ago, we purchased the Guitar Hero video game. I thought it was for my husband, but since then, we’ve added the drum set and a microphone to the collection. We’re now enjoying playing songs as a family with our 6-year-old daughter. We’re having a lot of fun playing the different instruments and trying new songs together, but I’m concerned about the suggestive or violent lyrics in many of the songs. Do you have any ideas for optimizing the benefits of playing together while minimizing the negatives?
Rocking Out in Marlboro, MA
A: Dear Rocking Out,
One of the great things about games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band is that they can give players an easy way to connect with instruments and music even if they aren’t able to play the real thing.  These games also provide some fun, positive ways to play and spend time together as a family.

Even with those benefits, though, the issue you raise is important. You are right to be concerned about the choice of songs—as you indicate, kids do pick up on what’s being said in media, and music is no exception.  One study showed that boys and girls who listened to sexually demeaning lyrics became sexually active earlier, and advanced more quickly through various stages of sexual behavior, than those who didn’t.

For that reason, I’d recommend choosing songs carefully. Look up the lyrics of the songs that come with these games, and listen to them before you decide which songs to play with your daughter.  lyrics.com and azlyrics.com are good places to search.

Another benefit of games like these is that many people are becoming inspired to learn how to play the real instruments. Who knows, your daughter could end up a future Bonnie Raitt or Joan Jett!

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician

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