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TV, game profanity can lead to cussing, meanness
October 17th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

TV, game profanity can lead to cussing, meanness

Swearing in television programs and video games can lead adolescents to adopt the coarse language and can also influence aggressive behavior according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

"We didn't know this before and I was really surprised because we've got all these ratings for television, film and video games for profanity," said study author Sarah Coyne, Ph.D., assistant professor of family life at Brigham Young University and researcher of media and human development.

She added that a lot of the time, the ratings are incorrect.

"I think as a society we've gotten really lax concerning profanity," she added. "I think it's in part because we hear it all over the media."

Researchers surveyed more 222 children ages 11 to 15  from a large Midwestern middle school.  135 of the participants were girls.

The students were asked about their favorite shows and games, including how often they watch television and play the games.  They were asked how much profanity they thought they were exposed to and about their feelings about profanity. Researchers determined that exposure and their stance on profanity were significantly related.

Coyne said the statistics point to a "trickle-down effect."

"So maybe you watch television, play video games with a lot of profanity and kind of you get more used to it," she said. "You get more desensitized to it, you become more accepting of it, then you kind of start using it in your own life and then kind of show the lack of respect for people."

The study found aggression could be presented physically -  hitting, kicking or punching. However, it could also show in the form of relational aggression like gossiping or spreading rumors about someone.

"I think that parents should be a little bit more aware of what's out there in the programs our kids are watching, and the video games they're playing," Coyne added. "They could be a little more vigilant in terms of profanity exposure.

She adds that television and video games need to be more accurately labeled for profanity.


soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Pest

    Good. That will make parenting a little more interesting for you all.

    October 17, 2011 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • teresa

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      October 17, 2011 at 22:28 | Report abuse |
    • Frans

      Posted on I must say, as considerably as I eoyjned reading what you had to say, I couldnt help but lose interest after a while. Its as if you had a excellent grasp to the subject matter, but you forgot to include your readers. Perhaps you should think about this from extra than one angle. Or maybe you shouldnt generalise so significantly. Its better if you think about what others may have to say instead of just heading for a gut reaction to the subject. Think about adjusting your personal thought process and giving others who may read this the benefit of the doubt.

      March 3, 2012 at 23:25 | Report abuse |
  2. chapkom

    News Flash – Kids emulate what they see, good or bad. FILM AT ELEVEN.

    October 17, 2011 at 09:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Brittany

    I wish society would stop caring so much about "bad" words. They don't hurt anyone. I think it's ridiculous that some words are considered worse than others.

    October 17, 2011 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Perskaya01

      @Brittany: And I think it's ridiculous that you don't consider some words worse than others. Want to play rock, paper, scissors to see who wins?

      October 17, 2011 at 10:00 | Report abuse |
  4. Bernie

    Are we hypocrites or just stupid? Of course whatever children see on television and video games effects them and we know it. Why else would we ban cigarette ads on television? Any parent who trusts ratings on films or games is a fool.

    October 17, 2011 at 10:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Righton

    Oh wow CNN, thanks for the newsflash. I didn't know that kids repeated what they heard. Dang, what else do I need to know? If you feed them Cheetos and Mountain Dew all the time they'll be fat and get diabetes?

    October 17, 2011 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nimrod

      If you feed them Mountain Dew all the time they may be so hyped up on caffeine that you might not have to worry so much about getting fat, that ADHD can be a monster!

      October 17, 2011 at 20:03 | Report abuse |
    • Chelse

      Very funny! I think it may have been posted because in the hustle and bustle of life parents somehow forget to see why their kids are acting this way because we are too busy watching the news instead of spending time with our kids. So maybe while reading this, a parent will say "hey, you know what...Jimmy has a bad mouth too, maybe its the VIDEO GAMES, oh thank you CNN!"

      October 27, 2011 at 22:18 | Report abuse |
  6. Poodles

    In other news... Water is wet. Ice is cold. Fire is hot.

    October 17, 2011 at 12:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. GRofPA

    We needed a study to reach this conclusion? I sure hope it was taxpayer funded – a worthy use of our money.

    October 17, 2011 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. LeRoy

    And it took The Chart this long to figure this out? I knew that 20 years ago. Nobody listens.

    October 17, 2011 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. sam

    Better keep em away from drunk parents too

    October 17, 2011 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. CalgarySandy

    My son learned to curse from me. I told him that cursing in front of people is very rude and should never be done unless you know absolutely that it does not bother them. This means for sure: Never in public and never around Grandma. If your friends are cursing and are not in public no one cares as long as none of your friends will rat you out. I told him never to curse AT me but otherwise just keep it to a minimum? When he got sent to his room he could curse me all he wanted behind closed doors. Not my room. I came around a corner from another room when he was cursing at one of his toys, pretending to be a mechanic and I remarked on this cursing. He responded with "I WAS by myself." He was about 3. I just patted him on the head and said that he was right.
    Cursing is not a sin. It is just bad manners around those who think it is insulting or a sin. I also taught him how to make up expressions to use instead of cursing and that it was way more intelligent and creative to make stuff up than just use lots of curse words.
    Vulgarity is nothing more than the language of the peasants. The Vulgar. The Vulgate was put together for the Vulgar. The F Bomb, F.... I hate that expression was not considered a bad just classless. Blasphemy is different and most people do not appear to mind it as it is the common cussing heard in businesses. Blasphemy should be more distressing to believers but does not appear to be.

    October 17, 2011 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Saifullah

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      March 3, 2012 at 16:05 | Report abuse |
  11. CalgarySandy

    How is this a health issue? Are people who curse subhuman? Short lived? Immune system deficient? Liable to become dangerous to themselves, to society? Is there an inoculation against cussing? Are there doctors who specialize in those who cuss? Honestly, what a waste of money. People who get bent out of shape over swearing have too much time on their hands. People are starving. Children are abused. Old people are suffering after busting their hump all their lives.

    Here is what you do: You teach your children well. Don't tell them they will go to HeII if they curse. Tell them they will be looked down on for their rudeness. Tell them it hurts feelings if grandma or grandpa heard you swear. And while you are at it, give your kids a better education in manners than you have. And model these manners. If you swear yourself and tell your kids it is wrong you are a hypocrite.

    October 17, 2011 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. obmama

    222 kids who live in the midwest is a small sample, that does not represent diverse cultures, lifestyles and environments. Were these kids selected because they are "aggressive"?

    It seems the "study people" theorized and wrote a survey that would reach a desired conclusion. To suggest profanity on TV and video games causes physical aggression – 'hitting, kicking or punching", and relational aggression – "gossiping or spreading rumors" is absurd.

    Gossip is communication, rumors are speculation, and both are human nature. Cruel fabrications by cyberspace bullies is relational aggression. Domestic violence is physical aggression, usually accompanied with angry profanity, and is more likely to influence a child than profanity on TV and video games.

    It seems the writer of this study thinks parents can shield children from profanity. Impossible, profanity emphasizes emotions and criticality in our daily lives. But, they can teach their kids personal integrity and good values, to restrict profanity and vulgarity that is directed or derogatory to others. Of course, they must set the example.

    George Carlin's "dirty words" are almost a half century old (my era), and most are socially acceptable today. Heck, the President of the United States called Kanye West an a hole. If my comment doesn't post, I will assume my attempt to disguise profanity was unsuccessful!

    October 17, 2011 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nimrod

      One may hear those words more now than in the past but don't let that make you believe that they are socially acceptable. In many business and social situations, cursing will cost you. I don't hire folks with filthy mouths and certainly think less of those who can't express themselves without using profanity and vulgarity. If I'm off on my own and smack my hand with a hammer or get kicked by a horse or something, well, I might use some of those choice words, but if a bunch of clients are standing around, you can bet I'll choose more wisely.

      October 17, 2011 at 20:14 | Report abuse |
    • Seidan

      If they are all from the midwest how do we know that their over aggression wasn't brought about by being hockey hooligans!

      October 18, 2011 at 00:02 | Report abuse |
    • obmama

      Nimrod, I agree, we hear more profanity today and it's inappropriate in a professional environment and certain social settings.

      This was my point about parents setting an example, and tied it to the "relationship aggression" cited in the story. Kids mimic the people they spend time with, as well as celebrities and others they idolize.

      While profanity should be discouraged, it's up to parents to set the guidelines and they do. Read the comments, toddlers know it's OK alone, but not in front of Grandma. But parents who gravitated to this story don't need to be told. Some kids spend time with caregivers who set bad examples, or live in dysfunction, or without rules.

      And some businesses, like athletics programs for kids and professional sports, don't have profanity rules. Coaches swear all the time. Some bosses swear. It's unprofessional, but not every work environment is profanity-free.

      October 18, 2011 at 04:40 | Report abuse |
    • Katherine

      I agree, 222 kids in one geographical area is a pretty lazy sample size for a study that claims to apply to all children.

      As for your comment "It seems the "study people" theorized and wrote a survey that would reach a desired conclusion" – that's pretty much how all behavioral analysis studies work. Behavior analysis psychologists will CLAIM it's not a correlation study, but that's really all it is. Because there is no way to measure cognition or what the children are thinking 24/7, there is no way to know whether the aggressive behavior was really caused by exposure to profanity or whether it is some other issue. I also bet they did not keep the children in a controlled environment where they were exposed to exactly the same profanity-containing media.
      Also, where is the control group? Did they measure aggression levels in children NOT exposed to profanity? I'll bet there was no control, probably because they couldn't find any kids that hadn't been exposed...

      November 3, 2011 at 18:33 | Report abuse |
  13. Chowder

    When it comes to a child that is having a temper tantrum... that child will probably cuss. As for me, I can tell that I use profanity on almost a regular basis. Do I do it intentionally? No. Did I watch shows, and play video games that had a lot of profanity in them? No, not really, My parents got divorced when I was 10. TV, and video games have nothing to do with the language I use today, I learned it from my parents cussing, screaming, and fighting when I was little. It's all about parenting, people need to stop blaming the media for their children misbehaving, and start blaming their lack of parenting skills.

    October 17, 2011 at 21:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Seidan

      Exactly, if you don't like your kid cussing then beat them when they do. They'll learn not to do it, at least around you. Seriously, beat your kids!

      October 18, 2011 at 00:06 | Report abuse |
    • collegestudent

      I agree seidan, but some people might view those parents beating their children as child abuse and call CPS. There was a case about that near Seattle.

      October 18, 2011 at 11:19 | Report abuse |
    • Chelse

      I AGREE! I wish parents would put their I-whatevers down and spend time with their kids! In the parents magazine it had a page for technology for the whole family. It said "Don't want your kid playing with your ipad, give them this!" It had something for pre-school, pre-teen, etc. and I thought. "Oh fabulous, lets get absorbed in our toys and not talk to each other ever again!!" NOT.

      October 27, 2011 at 22:22 | Report abuse |
    • Chelse

      Oh...I agree with Chowder not the other two posts. I would report that as child abuse. Something seems wrong with beating a child....oh its probably that the parent is ten times their size and strength....and beating them for a problem they created.

      October 27, 2011 at 22:25 | Report abuse |
  14. teresa

    ADULT STEM CELLS CURE'S AIDS / HIV and A NUMBER OF OTHER THINGS BUT WHY????? IS AMERICA BEING HELD BACK FROM THE MAJOR LEAP IN MEDICINE DOES AMERICA WANT TOO KILL YOU ??????? OTHER COUNTRIES MAKING MAJOR LEAPS INTO MEDICINE BUT AMERICA IS STILL IN THE STONE AGE WHY????? WHO BENEFITS THE FDA BIG CORPORATIONS .......?

    October 17, 2011 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. LMR

    Really? What a profound revelation! OY VEY, who commissioned this study?

    October 17, 2011 at 23:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. erich2112x

    Stubbing your toe on the bed frame can make you cuss too.

    October 17, 2011 at 23:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Seidan

    What the study didn't show was said behavior was treatable with a liberal serving of backhand!

    October 17, 2011 at 23:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katherine

      Sounds like a good treatment plant to me! lol

      November 3, 2011 at 18:26 | Report abuse |
  18. nancyhouse

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    October 18, 2011 at 01:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. k

    Kids behave in a monkey see monkey do manner?...shocking...errr...this is just dumb...clearly another study is required.

    October 18, 2011 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • collegestudent

      Lol, isn't it obvious? They have to spend more of the tax payers money so that they can perform more "research" into why children use profanity despite the obvious signs that are there. The "higher" educated people within the science community can't understand why these children are using profane language because they are so desensitized to it themselves that they do not realize they are exposed to it themselves, thus exposing their children to it in their own homes. I honestly believe that this "research" was performed so that they could obtain more of the taxpayers money and waste more peoples time that could have been used to perform much better research on more pressing matters, for example, finding ways to treat cancer better.

      October 18, 2011 at 11:26 | Report abuse |
  20. Jk

    Aw Mother !@#%*, I just bought my 4yr old Bullet Storm.

    October 18, 2011 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. K. Taylor

    Cussing and vulgar language is Unnessary in any one of any age. WE have enough words in the english language to express ourselves without it. It if offense to many so other's feelings should be respected. If I hit my finger with a hammer I don't swear, I may holler OH MAN< THAT HURTS! and I get my point across. OUr children need to have good role models, and parents should be IT! Parents need to stop swearing too, it just shows ignorance. I don't care HOW mad you are, it is NOT necessary to swear. The F bomb is so prevelant and it is SO vulgar! I mean if you are going to swear at least the use the word in its proper content... not that f- car, or f- neighbor has NOTHING to do with it's meaning! LOL

    October 21, 2011 at 12:30 | Report abuse | Reply
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      March 3, 2012 at 18:18 | Report abuse |
  22. Chelse

    Profanity is the attempt of a feeble mind to sound sophisticated.

    October 27, 2011 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply

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