ADULTS may complain about artistes like Lady Gaga, whose catchy pop songs often disguise hurtful messages.

But teens like pop music, and pop music likes teens. Artistes and record companies influence the clothes teens and their friends wear, the tunes they put onto their iPod and even what they do on a Friday night.

If parents of teens today are anything like my parents, they probably don’t want them to watch too much TV, spend too much time on their cellphones or hang out with dangerous people because of the influences their teens would be exposed to.

Every teen knows, though, that by secondary school, parents aren’t the only influence affecting their lives. Their parents can no more stop teens from listening to Lady Gaga than they can dictate what their teens think.
But parents are right about one thing: What teens listen to does matter. Anything teens let into their brain is going to change how they see the world.

It used to be that a person could just switch off his electronics and be in his own little world. But these days it’s harder to “disconnect” from the messages flying about from all sides. It’s tough to tell what’s right and what’s wrong, who’s making true art and who just wants people to buy stuff.

So each individual has the power and the responsibility as well to decide how much what they watch and listen to every day – the sexually charged music videos, materialistic commercials and the peer pressure at school – influences his or her life.

The drinking, partying and sex in most music today is not the fun, consequence-free playground that pop songs speak of. Teenagers’ choices in this arena have a very real and very serious impact on their lives.

I believe that one of the most important survival techniques for the modern world is as ancient as our Christian belief itself: St Paul’s old invocation to be in the world but not of it.

Teens don’t have to be divorced and disconnected from all of the things that they like, such as catchy pop songs. But on the other hand, these songs don’t have to be teens’ reality either. Teens have the power to be responsible and make the right decisions about which path to choose.

Teens can stand up for themselves and their future by refusing to participate in behaviour that is immoral, illegal and just plain bad for them. They can say no to risky sex, to binge drinking and drugs.

Teens can choose to rise above the influence of peers, pop culture and everything else pressing in on them. – CNS