Young People Ask . . .

Should I Watch Music Videos?

“Music videos are great. Some of them are like minimovies. They tell a story, and I admire the choreography.”​—Casey.

“They’re a good way to find new music. They expose you to more than the regular top-40 music. Also, music videos can be good conversation pieces.”​—Josh.

“Details in a video are important to me​—who is singing, what she’s wearing, how she acts. All these combine to shed light on the meaning of the lyrics.”​—Kimberly.

“I like to see what my favorite bands are going to do this time. I love the special effects. And some videos are funny. But you have to be careful.”​—Sam.

PERHAPS you too enjoy watching music videos. When they first appeared on the television scene, they were relatively simple low-budget productions. But as music videos proved that they were no passing fad and that they had an enormous impact on record sales, they rapidly became increasingly sophisticated, artistically and technically. Today they are an important part of the music world and have proved to be immensely popular among young people. In some lands there are TV stations devoted exclusively to the showing of music videos!

But why do youths such as Sam, who is quoted here, say that there is a need to be careful? Could it be that some music videos might have a negative effect on you​—perhaps corrupting your thinking and moral values or even damaging your relationship with your Creator? Such a question may seem a bit extreme. But think, If you were going for a swim in a lake or in the ocean and saw signs proclaiming that it was hazardous or dangerous to swim there, would it be smart to brush off such warnings? Hardly. Well, then, it will prove wise on your part to consider some warnings regarding music videos.

 Danger Zones

You need to acknowledge the fact that what you see and hear can affect you! The Bible tells us that Israel’s first king, Saul, used music beneficially​—to soothe his emotions. (1 Samuel 16:14-23) Could music also have a negative effect? The book Rock and Roll​—Its History and Stylistic Development makes this point: “One cannot have it both ways. If we acknowledge that rock music has had positive effects (as it has), we must also be willing to admit that it has had negative effects (as it has). The person who proudly proclaims ‘Oh, I listen to the music, but it doesn’t affect me’ is either hopelessly naive or grossly ill informed.”

The Bible repeatedly points to the influence that the eye has on our thinking and emotions. (Proverbs 27:20; 1 John 2:16) So by adding powerful visual elements to music, video producers dramatically increase the effects that music has on its listeners. What kinds of visual elements are commonly used?

According to one study, about 57 percent of rock videos contain violent acts. About 76 percent include representations of sexual activities. Another recent analysis found that 75 percent of concept videos (videos that tell a story) also involved sexual imagery, and more than half involved violence, usually against women. Now, could watching such videos really harm you? One reference points out that “experimental studies have found that viewing music videos may, in fact, influence adolescents’ attitudes concerning early or risky sexual activity.” And there is no denying that as musicians try to outshock their predecessors and their peers, music videos in general are becoming increasingly graphic.

One expert in the field of education observed: “Many argue that what they hear​—and see, thanks to music videos—​is no different than the musical influences of past generations . . . But it seems that the majority of today’s artists cavalierly embrace profanity and outrageousness as acceptable tools to increase record sales.” And Chicago magazine says of those who watch a certain music video channel: “What they get is a nonstop blitz of aggressively suggestive soft-core porn.”

Chicago magazine also describes a music video in which “a young man sitting at the counter in a diner leans his head back a little too far. A huge bloodred gash appears in his neck and the head falls off.” Another video reportedly showed a man doing a gory striptease, during which he also removed his flesh and muscles. Other things too shocking to report were depicted.

Now some may dismiss these facts, claiming that the videos described here are extreme and that most are not really so bad. Some may even argue that they don’t find music videos to be particularly shocking or offensive. But might that not simply suggest that repeated viewing of such videos has desensitized those individuals? Casey, the young man quoted at the outset, admits: “If you don’t put limits on what you watch, what was at first outrageous eventually becomes mundane. Unconsciously, you look to the next level and passively accept what you used to find shocking.”

What may result? Your ability to make sound moral decisions may be severely impaired. Because our minds can so easily be influenced in a negative way, the Bible exhorts us to “safeguard practical wisdom and thinking ability.” (Proverbs 3:21; 5:2) Another negative result could be damage to your friendship with Jehovah God. Is that not your most precious possession? You therefore need to safeguard that friendship by taking measures to avoid improper entertainment of any kind. How can you do so?

 Protecting Yourself

First, please accept that it is simply wrong to watch scenes that flaunt what the Bible clearly condemns. (Psalm 11:5; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8) When a video glorifies things that do not ‘befit holy people,’ you must be determined to stop watching. (Ephesians 5:3, 4) Admittedly, changing the channel​—or turning the TV off—​may not be easy when an exciting video is playing. So you may need to pray as did the psalmist who wrote: “Make my eyes pass on from seeing what is worthless.”​—Psalm 119:37.

You may naturally recoil from videos that are as shocking as the ones we described earlier. However, some videos seem to be more subtle in their approach. Scenes of sexuality may be brief or fleeting. The lyrics and visuals may be artfully orchestrated to promote some ungodly viewpoint without ever saying or showing anything explicit. Nevertheless, if you feel vaguely guilty for having watched a certain video, it was likely unwholesome or unchristian in some way. How, then, can you go about deciding what to watch and what to avoid when issues of propriety are not clear-cut?

Of course, whether you watch music videos at all is a matter for your personal decision and that of your parents, who have the responsibility for deciding what you can and cannot watch. (Ephesians 6:1, 2) But if your parents allow you to watch music videos, you need to be guided by more than what feels right to you. Hebrews 5:14 encourages us to ‘train our perceptive powers’ to ‘distinguish right and wrong.’ Our powers of perception are trained by studying Bible principles, which provide a structure for determining what is good and what is bad from Jehovah’s viewpoint. By meditating on such Bible principles, you will be able to recognize what is hazardous to your spiritual health, even when there is no particular Bible rule to guide you.

Specifically, then, what Bible principles can guide you in regard to watching music videos? This will be discussed in a future article.

[Blurb on page 20]

“The person who proudly proclaims ‘Oh, I listen to the music, but it doesn’t affect me’ is either hopelessly naive or grossly ill informed”

[Pictures on page 21]

Can you really watch something unwholesome and not be affected by it?