By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor
I've come to terms with hearing my kids mimic certain iffy words they hear on the radio, but when my 8-year-old daughter asked me to download a few songs off iTunes for the first time, I was not prepared to deal with a song about oral sex. Yikes!
Here's how it started: Since this would be my daughter's first download, I wanted to be upbeat about the experience. Our family loves music, and I don't want to censor such an essential art form. I also knew I needed to quickly establish rules about how this music downloading process would work, so she and I would be on the same page.
So, I told her she could choose three songs to download and that I needed to approve them first. The first was by Taylor Swift, whom I admire because she writes her own music and her songs are fairly innocent. The second was by Rihanna, who has a racy popular image, yet my daughter has zero knowledge of it.
But it was her final choice -- "Whistle," by Flo Rida -- that caught my attention. The lyrics include: "Can you blow my whistle, baby, whistle baby/ You just put your lips together and you come real close/ Blow my whistle baby..."
I sat there with my head in my hands, quickly running through possible scenarios in my head. I could say no to the song. She would ask me why. I would say that I thought the lyrics were inappropriate. She would ask why a song about whistling was inappropriate. Then I would either have to explain the metaphor, or choose NOT to explain, which would then just make her feel confused and curious, and perhaps even ashamed, which is the last thing I want.
Or, I could say yes, and not make a big deal out of it. But then she might start belting out the song during recess, and maybe the older kids would start laughing, and then maybe she would learn about oral sex from a fifth grader instead of a responsible adult. Ugh!
Ultimately, I decided to let her download the song, and I didn't make a big deal out of it. I figured drawing more attention to the issue would be the worse scenario. I also reasoned that since we've started listening to Top 40 radio in the car, she's exposed to all sorts of sexual innuendo in music (she probably thinks the song about whistling is one of the tamer songs she knows).
I look at listening to pop music with her as an opportunity to have discussions about topics that might otherwise not come up between us. If she knows that I like singing Rihanna songs just as much as she does, I hope she'll be more open to talking to me about the singer's persona once she does become more aware of the greater pop culture world. And the more I show her that I'm interested in her media choices, but not critical, the more sway I'll have when I really need to put my foot down.
How do you handle racy music and lyrics with your kids? Do you put limits on the radio stations they listen to or the kinds of music they can download?
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