Popular culture has a pervasive impact upon children's lives today, particularly during the adolescent stage. According to the University of Tampere's Department of Translation Studies, pop culture is defined as "the differing forms and expressions which are characteristic of a particular society (whether local, regional, national, racial, or ethnic, to mention only a few of the different definitions of 'society' itself)."
It is a recent modern phenomenon that encompasses all aspects of cultural expression, which include but are not limited to, movies, music, television shows, literature, fashion, food, and sports. Everything deemed popular is considered to be the latest style or trend; items in pop culture are often meant to be superficial and short-lived, ready to be replaced by the "next big thing." Pop culture is sustained by continuous feedback from its consumers to its industries over determining what is to considered popular.
Pop culture has a dynamic influence on people throughout their lives, particularly while they are young. Considerable debate has arisen over the years as to whether this influence is beneficial or not for young people. There are many who argue that current popular culture, particularly in the field of music, has had a significantly negative influence upon adolescent behavior, leading them to engage in risky endeavors involving drugs, sex, and violence. This paper will attempt to discover whether this viewpoint has any merit, by exploring for evidences used to support it as well as evidences that run counter to it.
Questions may abound as to how relevant this viewpoint is today and as to how much of an impact its widespread acceptance would have upon society. As for its relevance, this viewpoint has become a popular source of debate since the 1999 Columbine high school massacre. At the time, artists like Marilyn Manson were severely blamed for penning disturbing lyrics that appealed to the Columbine killers. It was widely believed that the influence of such music led to the subsequent violence. Since then, the argument has continued to rage on as advocates from both sides try to closely analyze it and discover evidences to back up their claims. If the viewpoint pertaining to music's influence on teenagers becomes widely accepted by American society, there would be increased legislation for better musical content labeling procedures, easy access to lyrics by parents, and improved self-restraint measures within the music industry.
Advocates who believe that music does have adverse influences upon adolescent behavior, use the following evidences to support their belief. Experts have often pointed out that music plays a central role in the lives of adolescents, even more so arguably than other forms of popular entertainment such as television and movies. Roberts and Christenson (1997) report that the average American youth listen to music and watch music videos four to five hours daily. Music is thought to delineate and strengthen beliefs and convictions that adolescents form about impending adulthood as well as about the world around them. Roberts and Christenson mention some other effects of music, which they say, "alters and intensifies their (teens) moods, furnishes much of their slang, dominates their conversations, and provides the ambience at their social gatherings."
Over the years concern has grown over the increasingly violent and sexual content inherent in today's music. After observing a decade of research into the effects of the media on youth, Villani (Reuters Health, 2001) found that adolescents, who listen to music and watch TV more frequently than their peers were more likely to have sex while younger, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or marijuana, and cut class. Another study concluded that teens who listened to either heavy metal or rap music were prone to behavioral problems, risky sexual activities, substance abuse, crime, and poor academic performance (Took & Weiss, 1994, cited in King, McConnell, et.al 2002). Other studies showed that watching music videos helped to encourage violent tendencies, desensitize male college students to violence against women, sustain racial/gender stereotypes, and promote unsafe sex among teens (Rich, 2002). Many researchers found that the influence of music is more apparent in the behaviors of adolescents who were abused and alienated by family members and/or peers. Studies revealed that heavy metal music was most often listened to by youth who experienced behavioral problems, alienation, substance abuse, and suicidal tendencies, among other things (Rich, 2002). One particular study found that teenage antisocial and violent behavior could be…