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Parental Controls> Music > The 411 on Music Advisories

The 411 on Music Advisories

Guide to understanding the Parental Advisory Label (PAL)

-by Allison

parental advisory explicit content label graphic

Unlike television programs and movies, songs are not rated based on age-appropriateness. There is just one label to help parents, which is the Parental Advisory Label (PAL).

Recommended by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the black and white advisory is typically placed on the front of a CD cover to alert parents to music that features excessive, potentially inappropriate content.

Participant record labels and/or artists may choose to place the label on CD covers which contain music that has a heavy use of strong language, depictions of violence, sex or substance abuse to such an extent as to merit parental notification. The PAL label is an advisory that record companies, artists, advertisers and online or mobile merchants voluntarily place on products, advertisements and services to better inform consumers and retailers, while also protecting the interests of artists in free expression and artistic creativity.

Because the labeling is voluntary, and because it is only used on excessive material, parents need to be more diligent to supervise their children’s choice of music. While not all retail stores carry CDs with the Parental Advisory Label, many stores that do carry PAL-labeled CDs often have in-store policies restricting the sale of the labeled records to those under the age of 18. However, critics have stated that most record stores will sell a labeled CD to a minor without carding them.

The bottom line is that even though stores might have strict policies, many appear to not enforce them. That leaves it up to parents to stay abreast of their children’s musical selections. Parents need to take the time to stop and listen to the music, ask children about why they like the music and help children make good choices.

“Through music, parents or other adults can tune into what kids are thinking and feeling. We need to pay attention to the music children choose and ask questions: why do they like a certain song or album? What do they think the artist is saying? When these opportunities to talk openly are seized, parents, kids AND music are best served,” stated Recording Industry Association of America CEO Mitch Bainwol at

So make the most of your child’s musical selections and become an active listener.

Sources: and