Report: Rock Music Fuels Youth Violence

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNS) - Contradicting statements by the popular music industry, a new report on the effects of popular music concludes that rock music is the single most influential factor on the behavior of many young people, and some rock music contributes to youth violence.

"[I]ntuition, experience and research shows this is an issue of potential harm, not just an issue of taste," said Thomas L. Jipping, director of the Center for Law and Democracy with the Free Congress Foundation, and author of "There is a Virus Loose Within Our Culture: An Honest Look at Music's Impact."

Popular music has an even more powerful impact on young people than television, and some of the most popular music today promotes violence and drug use, the report says.

Published by the Free Congress Foundation, the report has the blessing of some 200 grassroots organizations, including the Parents Television Council [a division of the Media Research Center, CNS' parent organization], Organized Victims of Violent Crime, and Justice for Murder Victims.

Prominent religious leaders who have endorsed the report include John Cardinal O'Connor, Catholic archbishop of New York; Dr. Paige Patterson, president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Dr. C. Delores Tucker, president of the National Political Congress of Black Women, and prominent Jewish rabbis.

Music surpasses television as an influence in teenagers' lives, the report said. Listening to music is cited by teenagers as their most preferred non-school activity. Teenagers listen to an estimated 10,500 hours of rock music during the years between the seventh and twelfth grades alone - just 500 hours less than the total time they spend in school over 12 years.

The report finds that the technology of audio consumption makes music a more potent influence. Transportable cassette players make it possible for young people to listen to their favorite music anywhere, and over longer periods of time.

"In addition, using headphones creates an exclusionary condition, shutting out everything else and significantly enhancing the impact of whatever message the music carries," the report notes.

Music affects basic moods, attitudes and values. Uplifting music can have positive effects on adolescents' physiological and biochemical states; similarly, consumers of music with harmful themes are more approving of antisocial behaviors and attitudes, according to the report.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has said that rock music contributes to "new morbidities" in young people, including depression, suicide and homicide. The American Medical Association has voiced concern about "the possible impact of destructive themes depicted in certain types of popular rock music. The vivid depiction of drug and alcohol use, suicide, violence, demonology, sexual exploitation, racism and bigotry could be harmful to some young people."

"The National Education Association estimates that many of the 5,000 teenage suicides each year are linked to depression fueled by fatalistic music and lyrics," the report said.

Yet some observers say that industry labeling seems to be making matters worse, not better. While 25 percent of the top-selling recordings in 1990 were hard rock or heavy metal releases, by 1995 only 10 of the 40 most popular CDs were free of profanity or lyrics dealing with drugs, violence and sex, the report said.

The Recording Industry Association of America, a trade association that represents the record companies, told CNSNews.com it had not read the report, but that it encourages record companies to print parental advisories on questionable releases.

"We have a parental advisory program in place, which is a voluntary labeling program. The record companies review recordings and sticker product accordingly. It's been in place since 1985. We work with retailers to make sure that they have a product in store that shows that there's a '17 to buy' policy in place," a spokeswoman told CNSNews.com.

The industry's black and white logo, which reads "Parental Advisory: Explicit Content," is placed on the front of a recording. While the decision to label a particular recording is left to each company, "there is little question that the industry has taken this program seriously. Indeed, virtually every recording that has been the target of public controversy has a voluntary Parental Advisory on the cover," the recording industry said.

Numerous CNSNews.com telephone calls and e-mails to record companies for comment were not returned.