Stories about: Music

How can my six year old explore music on her own without being exposed to inappropriate content?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Children’s Hospital Boston’s media expert and director of Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Take a look at his blog archive or follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston

Michael RichQ: My six year old loves music, and I would like her to have something digital with which to listen to a variety of good music. I want her to have a certain level of independence as she explores her musical tastes, but I don’t want to get her something too advanced. My husband often lets her use his iPhone to search YouTube for a song she likes—then suggestions come up for others like it. I am not comfortable with trusting her musical exploration to marketing search engines, and I want to inspire her to just listen to good music. What do you advise?

-Harmony Hunter

A: Dear Harmony,

Today’s technology offers great ways to allow your daughter a way to explore musical tastes in a controlled environment. There are a few different options, each of which has advantages and challenges:

  • MP3 players: If you’re concerned about the musical content to which she’s exposed, an MP3 player may be your best choice. You can preselect the songs, and you won’t need to worry about marketing or commercials. You’ll likely need to show her how to use the various controls as she needs them. The main challenge for her may be that MP3 players are text based, so how easy it is for her to use will depend in part on her reading skills. Even before she can read, however, she can enjoy a broad and eclectic variety of music on shuffle play.

  • Online streaming services: Services like Pandora will constantly update song lists based on your (or her) preferences. Such a service will expose her to a wider variety of music than you might be able to provide her, and at less expense. But you can’t be sure what songs will get through the filters, and if you use free services, there will likely be marketing and commercial content as well.

 

  • YouTube: YouTube covers an ever-expanding range of music types, including a children’s version, and it’s “free”. But it is free of charge because it includes advertising, both on the site and embedded in many videos. YouTube also adds a visual element, which means she’ll see other people’s interpretations of songs. At times, that can be a lot of fun, but it may add images she’s not ready for, and the visual component changes the creative interaction between child and music. By supplying images to go with the story, music videos can take away the opportunity for your daughter to use her own imagination. Each time she hears that music, she will recall someone else’s images rather than her own. If the goal is listen to music, then the video component can limit her own imaginative possibilities. Note, however, that many YouTube videos of songs contain a static image of the album cover or the lyrics, rather than actual video, so those videos may be good options for your child.

Deciding which to choose will depend on your priorities: If you want to control the content, an MP3 player is likely the best option. If you want her to be exposed to the most variety, then online streaming may be best. If you do use online streaming or YouTube, consider having an adult present while she uses those services to help filter and interpret content that may otherwise be upsetting or confusing.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,

The Mediatrician® 

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When streaming music for my kids, how can I make sure the content is appropriate?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert and director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Send him a media-related parenting question via cmch@childrens.harvard.edu and follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston.

Q: We like to stream music from Pandora for my kids, who are in first and second grade. Pop dance music is fun and upbeat, and my children love it. But there is a big jump in maturity from Laurie Berkner and Kids Bop to Today’s Top Hits. And though there are lots of controls to set for Internet, TV, and movies, I can’t really find any for music. What are my monitoring options for streaming music?

Mystified by Music

A: Dear Mystified,

Music is wonderful for kids! Whether they sing along or dance to the rhythm, music can engage them in melodies, develop language skills, and encourage them to move with imagination. You can share with them the music you love, and there is excellent music created especially for kids of different ages in terms of message, rhythm, and sing-along-ability.

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Is your child media savvy?

Everyday young people are bombarded with images on TV, movies and the Internet. In that media blitz they are often exposed to advertisements, both direct and subtle, promoting everything from the newest clothes to the coolest toys. But bikes and shoes aren’t the only products marketers are trying to sell to kids; many products that negatively affect child health are also being pushed, with some serious repercussions. For instance, research shows a direct link between increases in advertising of non-nutritious foods and skyrocketing childhood obesity rates.

But if children were more aware of the influential nature of media, would they be less susceptible to it?

The answer is yes, according to a recent study published in Journal of Children and Media, and co-authored by David Bickham, PhD, staff scientist at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH) and Ronald Slaby, PhD, senior scientist at CMCH.

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What does the new AAP policy say about screentime for babies?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Children’s Hospital Boston’s media expert and director of Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Take a look at his blog archive or follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston

On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with a revised policy on media for kids two and younger. The recommendations for this age group are much the same as they were in 1999—that it is best for their developing brains and bodies to avoid both screen use (such as placing a toddler in front of a TV or video) and background media (such as leaving the TV on in the same room where a baby is playing)—but there is new scientific evidence to support these recommendations. An infant’s brain triples in volume in the first two years of life and research suggests that brain development during that time can benefit the most from:

We already knew that newborn brains develop in response to whatever is in their environment. New research from the past 12 years suggests that interacting with people, exploring the physical world (like stacking blocks or “reading” board books), and playing in open-ended ways are great for that development. And no matter how “educational” their content, screen media can’t provide that kind of environment.

That said, screen media aren’t toxic for babies—they’re just not really what they need. And other kinds of media, like music and books, can be great for kids of this age group. The updated AAP policy statement also recognizes that there are good screen media options for preschoolers, whose brains have developed to the point where they can learn from electronic screens.

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