Digital Music – Safe and Legal

Your teenager has been bugging you for an iPod or MP3 player for what seems like forever and you’ve finally decided to give in. Now what?

First thing is to choose between an iPod and any other type of digital music (MP3) player. This is ultimately a personal choice, so I’m just going to have my say and you can take it how you will.

Go with the iPod or another Apple music player (Nano, Mini, etc.).

The main reason I say this is, not surprisingly considering the topic of this blog, safety. Yes, safety.

The main reason I’d recommend the iPod over other players is the fact that it uses a fairly unique music file type. The software that it comes with it, iTunes, is designed to go with the product. It can be used to digitize your CD collection and download music from the web.

Yes, download music from the web. Here is where we start running into safety concerns.

As a parent my first thought is that I want to have some say in what my child listens to, especially if they are a pre-teen. iTunes offers several methods for paying for music and my favorite is the allowance. This means you authorize a set dollar amount, charged to your credit card or Pay Pal account, which is dedicated to music downloading. This prevents kids from getting themselves, or you, in financial trouble when they play with the new toy a little too much. It also allows you to set parental controls on what kind of music they can download; however, this feature does require the computer running the iTunes software to have Windows XP.

Since the iPod uses an unusual file type for music files it also means your kids won’t be downloading MP3s from the internet. Internet music sites, even those that declare themselves ‘Safe’ are not always so. While there are a number of legitimate sites there are even more that are not and files from these sites can have other, less pleasant, add-ons, things like ad ware, malware, and viruses.

Many teens will also be tempted by peer-to-peer music file sharing sites which carry the same risk of unwanted side effects listed above and boast the added danger of being illegal. Currently the RIAA is only pursuing p2p users who share 1000 or more audio files but that may change and no one wants to be in trouble, or have a kid in trouble, over something as simple as an audio file.

The downside to this unique file format used by an iPod is that it can sometimes be a hassle to get to your music if you want it in any other format. For example, music downloaded through iTunes can only be downloaded onto one computer. You are supposed to be able to move audio files from one authorized computer to another—you can have up to five computers authorized per iTunes account—I have personally yet to figure out how and I’ve been trying for a month or so. Downloaded music also has a cap on how many times it can be burned to a CD, so you have to burn thoughtfully.

Look hard at your options, then decide what you think is right, and safe, for you and your family.

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