Parents today have at least one thing in common with parents throughout the 20th century - in general they hate the music their kids like.

When it comes to heavy metal - the ear-piercing, drum-pounding, sex-strutting, violent style of music that is rising in popularity among youths in Utah - parents are quick to sound warnings. The music, some say, is harmful to both body and soul.But no one is calling for a ban on the music or on popular heavy metal concerts.

What many concerned groups are advocating is more parental involvement.

"We are encouraging parents to become informed," said Jennifer Norwood, executive director of Parent's Music Resource Center in Arlington, Va.

In 1985, the spouses of two Washington politicians, Susan Baker, wife of Secretary of State James Baker, and Tipper Gore, wife of Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore Jr., founded the group to alert parents to objectionable lyrics in rock music.

Five years later, how are they doing?

They're still being accused of censorship. But Norwood said the group hasn't sought government action. It merely asks the major recording companies to voluntarily label the album covers of rock records that contain violent, sexually explicit or drug-oriented lyrics.

Some have complied. But Gore said many haven't, or when they have, the warning labels are too small to be noticed or are hidden in the artwork.

That may change. Recently the group's battle has been joined by bigger guns - the National PTA and the American Medical Association, which also have endorsed voluntary labeling.

The groups want parents to know what their children are listening to. They also want them to know what happens at a concert.

"They (parents) should understand that concerts of any kind, no matter who the group is, could be dangerous," Norwood said. "It's a wide generalization to say that a particular type of music incited violence. There have been reports of violence at New Kids on the Block concerts. There are no statistics to prove that injuries are worse at heavy metal concerts."

As for what happened when three kids were trampled to death in an AC/DC concert in Salt Lake City, Norwood said parents and officials need to focus less on what happened on the stage and ask more questions about the size of the arena, seating arrangements, fire codes and whether alcohol and drugs are allowed in the arena.

A local psychologist agrees.

"The real neglect here is that parents aren't going to these concerts to see what they are like," said Lewis B. Hancock, a member of the Salt Lake County Commission on Youth. Hancock has attended heavy metal concerts and recommends other parents do the same.

"If you are going to let your children go to a concert, you need to go with them - observe and see what it's like. Children need to go supervised. Parents sending children of small stature or under the age of 15 to a concert alone are putting their children's lives in danger," he said. "I would not let my children go to a concert without me with them until they were over (age) 18. It's not so much for their physical safety, but at concerts where no one monitors what you do, a lot of kids get into drugs."

For a number of years, promoters have rented an extra room in the Salt Palace arena where parents, who take their children to the concert, can wait to drive them home afterward.

But parents who actually want to see the concert need to buy a ticket.

Eric Yaillen, director of marketing at Spectacor, says that may be carrying things too far.

"I agree with advocacy groups that parents do need to get involved. One of the strongest points of this community is the strength of the family. The (LDS) Church is the strong influence that keeps that family together," he said. "When kids rebel here they rebel on a small scale - by going to a heavy metal concert. But in the end they are still going to come back to the family."

Yaillen said he believes problems with youths in other parts of the country are due to the decline of the family. "So anything the family can do to strengthen itself is a benefit to everybody - the whole community."

That includes becoming knowledgable about heavy metal music.

Yaillen has one warning to parents planning to attend a heavy metal concert: The music is loud. If you do attend, wear earplugs.



Parents who want to better understand heavy metal music and what happens at concerts can:

- Watch MTV. Rock videos, although theatrical exaggerations provide a flavor of the themes and images presented in the music.

- Rent the video "Decline of Western Civilization (Part 2)." It's rated R for profanity, so you might want to consider watching it after the kids are in bed.

- Read warning labels on CDs and videos. Some record companies are voluntarily placing warning labels on their product concerning graphic lyrics.

- Visit stores that specialize in heavy metal music. You can't judge a book by its cover, but visiting a heavy metal store is an eye-opener.

- Talk with concert promoters/radio DJs. These people know better than anyone what goes on at rock concerts.

- Ask more questions about the size of the arena, seating, fire codes and whether they permit the sale of alcohol.

- Attend concerts. A firsthand look and listen is the best way to understand what happens at such shows.

- Talk to your kids.