Whether or not you believe that music has an influence on the minds and actions of teens, you cannot dispute the fact that Parental Advisory Labels have been a controversial topic for over a decade. In 1985, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) made an agreement with the National Parent Teacher Association and the Parents' Music Resource Center (PMRC) stating that music recordings containing explicit content would be identified with a permanent label to help parents regulate what their children listen to. The term "explicit content" refers to music that contains specific depictions of violence, sex, profanity, and/or drug use.

If you find yourself wondering whether or not your parents would understand the implications of a label that simply states "Parental Advisory: Explicit Content", you are not alone. Most experts and critics alike, feel the label is too vague and that it doesn't offer any information at all. Of all the rating systems for movies, television, and video games, it's not surprising that the music-recording industry's label is the least useful and detailed. Critics also say that ratings can cause a "boomerang" or "forbidden-fruit effect" and may actually attract children.

Do you wonder what the artists think about these Parental Advisory Labels? Could they have a dramatic effect on record sales? Some artists actually appreciate the fact that the labeling system is a voluntary program that has a goal to help families with young children, instead of seeking to censor the artist's work. If you look at the issue of advisory labels, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) made a fair compromise, respecting the freedom of expression of the artist, while also respecting the needs of parents.

The purpose of advisory labels may be well intended, but is the music-recording industry really keeping the explicit material out of young kids' hands? The Recording Industry Association of America doesn't represent the record retailers, but it does work closely with the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM). Depending on the retail outlet, stores may or may not carry CD's with the Parental Advisory Label. The stores that carry CD's with the labels often have in-store policies restricting the sale of the labeled records to those under the age of 18. However, critics observe that most record stores will sell a labeled CD to a minor without carding them. So, even though stores might have strict policies, many appear to not enforce them.

As a teen consumer, beware! Studies have found that the average teen listens to music on the average of 40 hours per week! That’s almost as much time as you sleep! To date, no studies have documented a cause-and-effect relationship between sexually or violently explicit lyrics and adverse behavioral effects, but we all know how music can affect our emotions.

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