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Are you ready to rock with your preteen?

Okay, so Britney Spears might not be your bag. Go along with your child to the concert, anyway. It's a chance to bond and to learn something about the music that's influencing your adolescent.

As if the price tag of concert tickets isn't unnerving enough, parents have other worries about their kids attending music concerts. Will there be drugs? Should a 10-year-old be allowed to go?

Arranging for your child to see a favorite act is a good idea.

Why?

Music becomes central to the life of children as they enter early adolescence.

According to the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, watching television declines during middle school years as preteens spend four to six hours daily listening to music. Who isn't familiar with the reality of an adolescent plugged into a Walkman or holed up in his bedroom with the CD playing?

Parents need to become aware of how music is playing out in a child's life. Can they name their young adolescent's favorite musicians? Are they familiar with the lyrics of his favorite CD? What do they know about the lives of pop icons Britney Spears, Nick Carter or Marilyn Manson?

A 12-year-old who is plastering the walls with pinups of Nick Carter may be flirting with romantic feelings. A 15-year-old who becomes immersed in Kurt Cobain's Nirvana records and loses interest in all other activities might be skirting depression. An out-of-control 14-year-old's fascination with Marilyn Manson could warrant a closer look.

One of the best ways for parents to understand what the music means to young teens is to attend a rock concert with them. Parents can tag along with a preteen and a friend. With an older adolescent, they might not be welcome in the next seat, but some venues have parent rooms. The Ice Palace in Tampa converts a bar into a waiting room for parents when an act that appeals to a younger audience plays.

Being there lets parents get a firsthand look at the kinds of teenagers who rally around a particular musician or group. Some rock acts, like Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, might be an opportunity for parents to share their musical past with their emerging teenager.

Going to a concert, even if it means driving a few hours, shows an adolescent that what's important to him or her is on the parents' agenda.

The car ride itself is a wonderful conversation greaser. Driving in the car loosens tongues.

But before parents stand in line at Ticketmaster or turn over their credit card to their preteen for an online ticket purchase, they should take a few moments to evaluate a concert plan.

One idea: Watch MTV to acquaint yourself with your teenager's choice of artist or group. Ask if the show will take place in an arena with seats or in a venue that contains standing room only.

Why?

It can be dangerous for kids to stand during performances because the crowd often pushes toward the stage or turns into a writhing mosh pit. Those near the front risk being crushed. Buying tickets to seated concerts is safer.

Many fans want to gather outside stadiums and wait for the tour buses to arrive. Parents should take special care here and supervise their child. Eager fans endanger themselves by getting in front of moving tour buses and storming buildings without adequate security. Remember, the security is there for audience members as well as for the performers.

Above all, the main reason to accompany adolescents to a concert of their choice is to share a quintessential high point in their lives.

Often parents of preteens bemoan the fact that the good times with easy youngsters are behind them. They recall those nostalgic "firsts," like the first smile or the first step. Just because a child is now a teen doesn't mean the "firsts" are over. Going to a concert can be added to that list of "firsts."

As music becomes the cornerstone of a child's membership in his own youth culture, a concert date can be one of those good times that will foster a parent-child relationship.

So even if you can't stand listening to Baby One More Time one more time, get tickets to a concert and enjoy your adolescent!

Margaret Sagarese is co-author of Parenting 911: How Parents Can Safeguard and Rescue 10- to 15-Year-Olds (Broadway Books, August 1999).

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