Parental Advisories... Unplugged

Kid Rock is not for kids. Thanks to the rise of recording "artists" like Eminem, the parenting public is now being alerted to the dangers of sex, language, and violence within the music industry. The recording industry would have you believe that every generation has music rebels that parents object to and that the current situation is no different than previous generations. Yet, has there ever before been a number-one-selling album that talks about slicing and dicing a girlfriend by an "artist" whose wife eventually tried to commit suicide and whose mother sued him? I don't think so. It's a new phenomenon.

Parents, it's really past time to sit up and take notice-- music can harm your child. What your children listen to requires parental monitoring just as much as what video games they play, what movies they watch, and what television they view. In order to be a well-informed parent and monitor what your child listens to, there are three essential things that every parent needs to know.

First, there is help available in deciding which music may be appropriate for your child.

Titles like "Kill You" and "F-CK Off" are usually enough to warn parents off, if they read them. But other songs aren't as easy to spot. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) created a labeling tool called the "Parental Advisory" non-removable sticker that is designed, in the words of the RIAA, to give a "heads-up to parents (and consumers, retailers and wholesalers) that parental discretion is advised when purchasing the particular recording for children or when listening to the recording in the home."

Look for this label on a music package before buying a music recording for your child and take it seriously. If a product has the advisory on it, you will be sure to hear lyrics containing depictions or language of sex, violence, substance abuse, or all of the above, and the recording is not an appropriate choice for children.

Second, the system is voluntary-some stores may display the Parental Advisory and some may not.

Though standards, policies, guidelines and recommendations are in place, the system is voluntary; there is no regulatory body monitoring the use or nonuse of the system. That means that a retailer can choose to display the advisory or not, just like a recording company can choose whether to place a sticker on a product or not.

Some retailers take the Parental Advisory seriously and will not sell any item displaying the warning, yet, it happens all too often in other retail establishments that the parental advisory is covered up by a store's price sticker. Two national chains, which covered up advisories with their stores' price sticker, explained that the store places stickers in the same location on each CD, regardless of an advisory. They both claimed that they simply couldn't look at each title and decide where to place a sticker. When notified of the problem, the RIAA said, "Thank you for bringing this to our attention.  We have a relationship with the retailers and will bring this issue up with them."

Three things you can do:

1. Check the product labels before AND after you buy a recording, or

2. Check online or call a store to ask if a particular product has an advisory.

3. When you come across a store that covers up Parental Advisories, ask why. Demand that either the advisories be prominently displayed on each item, or that a sign be posted with the advisory near the item. Don't let a store policy of "no returns on opened CDs" stop you from returning a CD with an advisory that was covered up. Talk to a manager and alert her/him of this problem.

Remember, just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it is not there.

Third, you can't depend on anyone else to make reliable decisions for you about what is appropriate for your child.

If you see an advisory, you have some solid information about what you will hear inside. If there is no advisory on the product, it does not mean that the product is OK for your child. No system, especially a voluntary, unregulated system within the industry, can fully inform parents about what their child will hear and what effect it will have on that individual child. Parents are the best experts on their own children and the buck stops here. Listen for yourself and decide not only what's appropriate but also what's good for your child to listen to.

For more information:

The Parental Media Guide

The RIAA Parent's Page