The Necessity of Music for Kids Today

By now, it’s pretty much common knowledge that music has numerous benefits on child development: From language and motor skills to executive functioning, math aptitude, literacy, and focus, music is an incredible brain enhancer for kids (and adults!). But beyond IQ-boosting, music is also an important source of stress-relief and self-expression; music can be an agent of calm in the roiling sea of childhood and adolescence—especially today, in our ultra-stressful moment of pandemic limbo, global war and hostility, uncertainty of America’s future, and increasing isolation and retreat into technological silos. Music is more meaningful and critical in kids’ lives today than ever.

We’ve written about how music is an effective stress-reliever before, but music—and in particular, music therapy—has been shown to be specifically beneficial in providing relief to kids with anxiety disorders. And according to the Journal of the American Medicine Association Pediatrics, anxiety and depression are on the rise in the last five years in kids ages 3 to 17. With social isolation, masking, erratic schooling, and decreased access to health care for the last two and a half years, it certainly makes sense that kids, with their heightened sensitivity and emotions, are having a hard time.

So how can music make a difference?

Depression Relief
According to a study published in Psychology of Music, music is a “versatile means for mood regulation” as it offers adolescents “resources for increasing and restoring well-being,” as well as making their emotional lives more “varied and colourful.” Many clinically depressed people describe depression as the feeling that their world is all gray, or even just blank. So facilitating a break from that kind of mindset is indeed powerful. In fact, music has been shown not only to preserve a sense of well-being but also to create resources for well-being—providing healthy coping mechanisms to arrive at a place of well-being from a place of trouble and turbulence, rather than just furthering entertainment and enjoyment.

Stress & Anxiety Relief
As we discussed in our article, “Music as Medicine: How Music Reduces Stress and Keeps You Calm,” music can actually lower babies’ heart rates: The American Psychological Association cites a study that shows that singing lullabies to premature babies in the NICU slows their heart rates—even more so than an instrument that simulates the sounds of the womb. Singing also increased the amount of time the babies stayed quietly alert. For people just a few years older, listening to relaxing music helped calm down pediatric emergency room patients while they were getting IVs inserted. These children also reported less pain than those patients who didn’t listen to any music.

Self-Confidence & Social Bonding
As we wrote in “The Benefits of Music on Big Kids,” singing or playing music with others syncs participants’ brain waves and generates oxytocin, the “love hormone.” After so long not being able to be in the same room as friends, not free to hug, high-five, hold hands, or even just sit next to each other without covering most of our faces, this bonding is vital. And making music with others can also facilitate the release and expression of tough emotions—whether that means singing a song that says things the way you can’t, or whether it’s writing your own songs. Through music, kids can learn that it’s okay to feel certain ways, and okay to let that out. Collaborating on something with others that does all this only furthers the sense of togetherness and community.

So whether your child is ready to take up an instrument, join band, sing in a choir, or start a songwriting career, or even if you just spend valuable time introducing them to all your own favorite songs and artists, it’s clear that music is an extremely meaningful, positive, and even urgent tool for all our sense of well-being.