Listening to music is one of the most frequent activities that kids engage in online, as we note in Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide. After watching TV, downloading and listening to music is easily the second most popular leisure activity that 8 to 18 year olds engage in, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The average kid spends nearly two and a half hours a day listening to music, in fact, often multitasking while performing various other activities on the computer.
Whether it’s searching for songs to download, chatting about tunes, engaging in group listening sessions, or using social media to share what they’re listening to, kids online have the ability to access and engage with a vast array of music larger than any of us could have possibly imagined as we rifled through the cassettes at the corner record store when we were their age. Last.Fm, ReverbNation, and Bandcamp are all great ways to legally search, discover and download music. Pandora, Spotify, SoundCloud and other services all provide ways to stream music for free and share it with friends as well, while Apple Music is poised to re-invent the way many listen to music online as well.
However, music downloads are also a way that many kids are introduced to peer-to-peer sharing, which allows file trading between computers and high-tech devices, with content frequently unregulated. Many sites also exist which encourage the illegal transfer and exchange of copyrighted material, and allow computers to share music and other content with each other free of charge. While peer-to-peer networks aren’t inherently bad – like any tech tool, it’s all in how users choose to utilize them – there are many reasons why your family may want to be leery of them. For example: Because content exchanges and uploads are often unsupervised, these services may be breeding grounds for malware, trojans and other harmful software, as distributing these corrupt files is as simple as renaming them after a popular song title.
In the case of one such site that was shuttered named Megaupload, the US Department of Justice targeted the leadership of the site, charging seven individuals associated with running the site with copyright infringement. The good news for families was that there were no ramifications for end users, but it only serves to underscore the fundamental problem: It’s hard to know just what material is being exchanged via these services, and its potential threat level or legality. Bear in mind though, that many users safely and responsibly utilize peer-to-peer networks as well. However, it may be best to encourage children to steer clear for safety reasons.
Food, nightlife, and entertainment expert Tamara Lacey travels the world in search of adventure, excitement, and the next big scoop. Whether relaxing at the spa or dancing the night away at the club, it's her job to report on the hottest new happenings in town.