Tips for surviving the show
Once you decide to go, here are some tips for helping your kids (and you) survive the show.
1. Bring ear protection: A study of children attending a Rihanna concert (kind of low on the decibel level) showed that 72 percent experienced reduced hearing after sitting through the concert. Earplugs, even the inexpensive foam kind, can cut out some of the volume.
2. Do your research: Go online, read some reviews and check out a few YouTube videos so you know what you (and your kids) are getting into.
3. Designate a meeting place: Big or small, concerts mean crowds. And it can be easy to get separated from your children. Pick a meeting place in case that happens.
4. Prepare snacks: Your child may want a snack during the three- to four-hour show, and if you don't want to pay for snacks at the concession stand, try eating before you head to the show and then leaving a snack in the car for the ride home.
5. Know when to leave: Your kids may not be able to make it to the final note, especially if the show has a late start. Know when your child has had enough, and hit the road.
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Parental advisory stickers are slapped on CDs and vinyl at the store, but you won't see them on concert tickets.
Lyrical content, the noise level, staging and production can all be a mystery unless you're the artist, and parents, in particular, often don't know what to expect when bringing their kids to the arena or a rock club for a show.
Concerts by pop musicians — such as Pink and Jay Z, who are coming to the area soon — can be especially hard to read because their songs have already pervaded our radios and iPods (and your kids' radios and iPods, too).
Audrey Hare of Lincoln is taking her 10-year-old daughter, Tess, to see Pink on Saturday. It will be Tess' first concert, but not the first one she's asked to go see.
Tess likes top 40 radio stations and loves Katy Perry. When Perry came to town, Hare decided that Tess was too young to see the “Hot N Cold” singer in person. But Hare, 44, thinks Pink is a fine concert for her daughter, especially with the themes of girl power and independence in Pink's music.
“Those are the kind of things that you can really get behind,” Hare said. “If you listen to 'My Vietnam,' that's a great song for girls. That song is basically about getting through her problems in her childhood.”
Though parents are the best judges when it comes to their own children, many tools exist to help.
Government-sponsored rating systems are a good place to start, said Reo Newring, a clinical psychologist at Children's Hospital. Because different parents have different views, she also recommends finding a website or blog by a parent who thinks like you do.
“Ultimately it is the parents' decision, typically made in reference to morality, ethics, development of the child, religiosity and socio-cultural and family norms,” she said.
Newring recommends parents use their personal judgment when deciding if content is too sexual, violent or otherwise inappropriate for their children. They should also learn to check up on everything new, even if it's from an artist they know. Kid-friendly singers tend to grow up and lose the kid-friendly vibe.
Newring recommends that parents listen to the music themselves.
“Even if you've listened to music by a certain artist before, don't get your kid the new album unless you've listened to it first,” she said.
Young children might not understand the music they hear, but they may start to repeat bad words and phrases they overhear.
“Usually the younger children just learn that inappropriate words are funny to other children, and get them a lot of attention from adults,” she said.
Concerts can be a different thing altogether, and Newring recommends reading concert reviews from other cities and speaking to people you trust who might know something about the artists and what they do in concert.
“Be aware that performers are there to put on a show, so some are more likely to behave in less appropriate ways to get and keep the attention of the audience (clothing, suggestive dancing, etc.),” she said.
Parents may find blogs such as commonsensemedia.org, pluggedin.com and themusicmoms.com and online message boards to be a huge help. Parents from all over the world can talk about whether particular concerts are appropriate for their children.
Common Sense Media has created a business out of posting reviews aimed at parents. Each review is accompanied by a star rating, an age rating and what is or is not appropriate in the songs.
Beth Pratt, the site's senior music editor, said it's pretty easy for kids to be exposed to lyrics or subject matter in music videos that they aren't ready for.
“Taking the time to search for age-appropriate music can help parents avoid a conversation that they may not be ready to have about sex, substances or profanity,” Pratt said.
Though every family may have different values and tolerance for various subjects, the website has age ratings and tabulations of references to sex, violence, profanity and drinking and drugs as well as positive messages and positive role models. Common Sense's ratings aren't an exact science, Pratt admitted. “Parents are still the expert when it comes to their kids.”
Nicole Jefferies' daughter, Katalin, is only 6 years old, but the girl is already a concert veteran. Jefferies, 35, and her husband are big rock fans (they met while working at Homer's Music), and they've had to exercise a lot of judgment when deciding what is appropriate for their daughter.
“I'm not going to take her to Gwar, but I might take her to They Might Be Giants,” Jefferies said.
Katalin has come along to see Garbage at Maha Music Festival, Radiohead in Kansas City and The Faint (twice) in Omaha. At one point, her parents considered a Nine Inch Nails concert, but the band's lyrical content made them decide to leave Katalin at home.
They're also conscious of the volume level at concerts. Katalin wears earmuff-style ear protection during every show.
When it comes to live concerts, Pratt generally recommends that if parents are OK with listening to the artist at home, they should be OK with taking their kids to the show.
That said, it can get a little trickier with teens, who might want to ditch their parents at the show.
“It's a good idea to have a chat about appropriate behavior and topics like drugs and alcohol before going,” she said.
Jefferies reiterated that the decision to bring a child to a concert lies with each parent — and comes down to what they think is best for their kids.
“You have to gauge what you're comfortable with,” Jefferies said. “It's also the stage show. I think I'd agree that I'd be more hesitant to being a young child to something with strong sexual content up on stage as opposed to a straightforward rock show.”