The British press has been set ablaze this week with a passionate row over government proposals to give music videos age ratings similar to those used to classify films. Prominent feminists and campaigners for children have argued that the raunchy content of many music videos is contributing to an early over-sexualisation of young people, and girls in particular. However, others have rejected the plans as an interfering move on the part of the ‘nanny state’, which shouldn’t attempt to control cultural expression. But what impact are these videos likely to have on children, and will they be disruptive to education?

Sexist Images

As children go through school, they are constantly bombarded left, right and centre by external cultural influences. Often the things they learn at school have to compete with these contradictory images and ideas. Just as young children are learning about equality and respect between men and women, allowing them to be exposed to the extremely explicit imagery of music videos can completely counteract what they are learning about sexual equality. Vastly more music videos show women wearing skimpy clothing and baring flesh than men, and extremely sexual poses and dancing are often used to turn up the heat in music videos by female artists. Exposure to this type of stereotypical objectification of the female form may be hugely counterproductive as children are growing up and forming impressions and beliefs about the world we live in.

Furthermore, these images and ideas about women send young girls a strong message about their place in the world and the way they are judged and valued. It could be very harmful to let these videos imply to young girls that being sexy and beautiful is the most important way a woman can promote herself, rather than working hard academically and aspiring to success in whatever career she chooses.

Similarly, young boys are forming their own opinions during their school years about how to treat others in the world around them. Whilst most schools work hard to promote complete equality between the sexes, the sexist content of many music videos may contradict the messages boys are learning at school and encourage them to develop sexist tendencies.

Inappropriate Language

Language development is one of the most important areas on which children’s education focuses, and this too can be greatly damaged by exposure to music videos. Not only do they often contain a lot of expletives and inappropriate vocabulary, but they also use a great deal of slang and colloquial language (much of it pejorative). Listening to these videos could have an adverse effect on the development of a child’s vocabulary and speech patterns. We would never dream of allowing a child to read a book full of swear words at a young age, so why should we expose them to this type of vocabulary in another form?

A New Breed of Music Video?

Some commentators have claimed that it is important for children to grow up in a world where their artistic expression is not limited and reined in by an over-meddling government, but on the contrary, the decision to give music videos age ratings does not prevent them from being made; it simply controls the times and channels on which more adult content may be broadcast. Not only would this send and important message to manufacturers about what kind of material is appropriate for younger viewers, but it may also result positively in a wealth of new, stimulating types of music video aimed specifically at a younger audience. These would be likely to have much higher educational value for young people than the highly sexualised imagery that is currently so common within the genre.

The introduction of age ratings on music videos is long overdue and will provide parents and teachers alike the relief of knowing that young children are no longer being exposed to damaging, stereotypical and inappropriate images and language during such a crucial, formative period of their education.

Do you agree with the recommendations? Should music videos be given an age rating? Let us know below!