Good and Bad Effects of Music on Children
Effects of Music
It’s been said that music soothes the savage beast. While that may or not be true (I wouldn’t personally want to put that to the test), it is evident from everyday experience that music has powerful effects on all of us.
In today’s world, we are surrounded by music. You would have to be a hermit not to be exposed to music of every conceivable variety whether it’s your own personal at-home or in-the-car variety, on TV, in stores, in movies, or on videos.
But what about the effects of music on kids? There have been multiple studies done exploring the positive and negative effects of music on children and while there are many theories and varying opinions on the severity of the impact on our children, experts and studies do agree on one thing.
Music does have positive and negative effects on children—the degree to which it affects them is yet to be determined. As adults, we know that music can brighten our mood or excite us, for instance motivate us to work out faster and longer. It can heighten our romantic senses or it can soothe us when we’re depressed or tired. It can energize us or put us to sleep. So why would children be any different? They too can experience the power of music.
Positive Effects of Music on Children
When exposed to certain kinds of music, kids can really reap some benefits.
Here are some of the positive effects of music on kids:
- Teaches rhythm which in turn teaches movement
- Encourages coordination
- Can be soothing in anxious or stressful situations
- Builds self-esteem
- Develops right brain but also develops left brain skills
- Teaches interaction with others
- Increases expression
- Stimulates responses
- Later in a child's life, provides social outlets
- Creates a niche for a child to fit into
- Music is something you can enjoy anywhere
- Handicapped children can excel at musical skills
- Can provide an outlet for autistic children
- Stimulates and soothes children with neurologic disorders
- Helps children with Down syndrome
- Can provide a calming effect for ADHD children or children with emotional disorders
What Is the “Mozart Effect?"
Music for kids can come in many different flavors. Even starting in utero, studies are proving that fetuses can benefit from listening to music. Many researchers swear by the “Mozart effect” which was a study conducted to find an answer to the question “how does music affect children?”
The Mozart effect is a theory that claims that children who listen to certain types of music such as classical music will be brighter, more skilled in terms of motor abilities, and will have higher cognitive skills than children who do not listen to this type of music.
They will also learn faster and retain more information than children who do not listen to certain types of music.
This theory about music has even been taken to a higher level as researchers have studied groups of adults and children listening to Baroque music at approximately 60 beats per minute. The music used is by composers such as Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Mozart, and Pachabel.
They have found that using this type of music and at precisely this beat-per-minute ratio increases retention and decreases stress and tension while trying to learn. It is claimed that by employing the right music at just the right tempo, it’s possible to activate the right brain and the left brain simultaneously thus increasing the learning rate by five times the norm.
Certain types of music have been found to be beneficial in lowering blood pressure and heart rates while in other cases, it has improved neurological function, memory, timing and language functions.
The study of language has also been set to Baroque music and research points to students being able to remember what they learned four years later with no other exposure after the initial learning phase.
Teddy Bear Picnic
Negative Effects of Music on Kids
Some studies indicate that children who are allowed to listen to music containing sexually explicit lyrics such as some rap music, violent music or even heavy metal music have a tendency to be more emotionally charged, depressed, emotionally confused and sometimes even suicidal or homicidal.
Many people would argue this theory as in our society, there are many genres of music that advocate abrasive, loud, and over-stimulating songs.
That said, one thing that should be addressed regarding kids' music is lyrics. Children that are exposed to the above kinds of music will definitely be stimulated but will the stimulation have a good effect or a bad effect? Children tend to remember everything they hear so being exposed to inappropriate language or music that promotes violence or racial slurs can influence children to adopt this kind of attitude.
Even certain levels of tonality in music can have a detrimental effect on children. It’s said that the shrill screeching of guitars or other instruments in heavy metal music can have a disquieting effect on children exposed to it and can cause nervousness, anxiety, and depression. While advocates claim that they seem to be "tuning it out," another theory is that they are retreating into an avoidant place and it may, in fact, be damaging their psyche.
It calls to mind my one and only bad experience with music in my own life. As a toddler, my mother, who is a music teacher, used to play music all the time. On the piano, on the radio, on the "record player." However, there was one song—Teddy Bear Picnic—that I will never forget. For some reason, I had a horrible reaction to that song. Why? Maybe it's too low tonally or it's too “gloomy” or just plain too “something.” I started to cry each and every time she played it and became inconsolable. I can still remember this vividly. It wasn’t because of the teddy bears because I loved teddy bears. It wasn't because of the words because I didn't even know the words. It was just the music itself. She thought it was comical I guess so she kept playing it.
To this day, if I hear the original song, it makes me anxious and bothers me, even though I’m all grown up and I know what the trigger is.
Interestingly though, Anne Murray did a remake of this song and if you listen to the two on the videos, they are as different as night and day.
While one is depressing and frightening (to me), the other is lighthearted and fun. It goes to show that intonation or pitches can have a great deal to do with how a child reacts to certain songs.
Music for Kids
There is no one magic genre of music for kids. When our children were young and growing up, because I was a musician and found it to be my niche all through childhood and into adulthood, I exposed them to every possible genre (with some boundaries).
They were all encouraged to play instruments and all three of them did. We had a hyperactive child and music was a great release for him.
We had a legally blind child and music became a welcome gift for him. He excelled at it, and it became his solace. Our daughter played piano and danced and it helped her with her self-esteem and taught her poise. All of our children took dance lessons and music lessons. Two of them were in the bands at school from grade school and beyond.
But they also participated regularly with us at home—playing, singing, and dancing. We made music a family event. On trips, we played music as well as listened to books on tape. We went to see movies that projected the wonders of great music. We talked about different styles of music and we encouraged our kids to pursue their talents.
My children to this day love music and it's a great part of their individual lives. Music can create special moments in children’s lives but it can also help them discover a talent they didn't know they had. It can help them grow into themselves and learn skills that are later applicable to scholastic components like math and language.
A perfect world would allow every child to have some exposure to music, be it dance, singing or playing an instrument. Without being exposed to music in some form, it's possible the world will never know what it's missing. Amazingly, Albert Einstein said that his one regret was that he never learned to play an instrument.