The End of the Ear Buds

GUEST POST by Jonathan McKee. Jonathan has become a regular guest blogger on this site! He is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.

If Norman Rockwell were alive to paint a teenager in 2012, what would this kid look like?

Would they be alone, or with a group of friends?

Would they be sitting in front of a computer looking at Facebook, or lying on their bed, texting?

Would they be at soccer practice, lacrosse or swimming? Sprawled out on their floor, surrounded by books studying? Or maybe smoking behind Wal Mart, scratching their name on the side of a dumpster?

Activities, clothing and hairstyles aside, I’d be willing to bet that this kid would have little white ear buds sticking out of his or her ears, plugged into some sort of i-Device. Music is a common denominator among today’s teenagers, and they love playing it through those little tiny headphones called ear buds!

Parents always corner me after my parenting workshops and ask me:

“How do I get my kid to stop listening to her headphones 24/7?”

It’s a good question—something that a lot of parents deal with.

In my house, I solved the problem by purchasing three docking stations. Docking stations are basically a set of speakers with a nice little “dock” for an iPod. Teenagers can place their iPod in the dock and listen to the music through the speakers like any stereo.

It was simple. I have three kids, so three docking stations.

Why would any parent want this noise in their house?

Good question. Three reasons:

1. I hate ear buds. Ear buds and headphones seclude kids into their own world. It’s almost a nonverbal cue telling everyone else, “I don’t want to hear you. I’m in my own world. Please step away.” I’d rather they listened to music through speakers. I can still talk with my kids when music is playing through speakers.

2. I know what they’re listening to. When a teenager has headphones on, they could be listening to anything they want. Lil Wayne, Katy Perry… or John Tesh! I wanna know if my kid is listening to John Tesh!

3. Docking stations act as a substitute for the radio. I really don’t like the radio. DJ’s are pervs and their music selection is raunchy. Docking stations, on the other hand, only play iPods. I know what’s on my kids’ iPods. Problem solved.

When I decided to make this purchase, I went to a couple electronic stores and shopped for some really nice docking stations. I found some for over $50, but less than $100 that had a really nice sound. (I’m kind of a sound fanatic). When I brought them home… I was a hero. “Wow! This is awesome Dad!”

None of them knew my evil plan!

Now I know what’s playing in each of my kids’ rooms. My whole family likes music so we often have conversations about what’s playing. “Who’s singing that song?” or “Check out my new playlist.”

I actually share one iTunes account with my girls right now (my son is away at college now), so when one of us downloads a song, we all get to enjoy it. This “song sharing” has been pretty fun lately. Then we create a playlist… and off to the docking station with it.

Docking stations rule!

Question: What about You?
What works in your house? How do you keep your kids from secluding themselves with music? How do you know what your kids are listening to? Share your thoughts here.

If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love Jonathan’s fun and practical parenting book,Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, especially chapter 6, “Dad, Can I Download This Song?”

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  • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

    This is a great idea! I was just thinking about earbuds the other day. Right now my boy only listens to what we do in the living room; and we turn up that Top 50 kids songs CD and jam! (The Muffin Man is a current favorite). But I have seen several kids from the youth group uploading pics to facebook with their earbuds in. It’s like the have it in every picture, even when they are with others. This is a great tip that I will definitely pass on to parents next time they come to me!

    • Jonathan McKee

       Thanks Brandon. With my own kids, the docking stations work well. With kids in my ministry, I find that the best tool is the “Y jack.” The concept is simple. You’re on a bus ride or in a van heading up to camp and a kid has his earbuds in… sit next to him and ask, “Can I plug in with ya?” Pull out your Y-jack and your own set of earbuds so you can both listen to his music. The kid will either be glad that you took interest in him and allow you to listen along… or your student leader will get really nervous because he doesn’t want you to know that he’s listening to Lil Wayne!

      • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

        That is a really cool idea. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/FF5addict2015 M

    I’m a teenager and I just wanted to let you know that earbuds aren’t bad. Plus you can use radio on some docking stations like mine.

  • John Gruber

    Great post!  Which docking station did you get?

    • Jonathan McKee

      Costco had a really nice Altec Lansing docking station at the time. Good lows for such a small unit. My girls love it.

  • Pingback: Talking with Teenagers about Their Music()

  • Mitch

    “How do I get my kid to stop listening to her headphones 24/7?” OMG!!!!!! YOU are the parent! You TELL THEM to stop or else! Holy cow! What happened to parenting!???!???!??!