There’s no doubt that the amount of swearing in the media has increased in recent years – check out this stat alone: the “Today” show reported that according to the Parents Television Council, there were 11 cases of a bleeped “F word” on primetime TV in 2005, as opposed to 2010’s 276 reported cases. @$?! Yikes!
A January episode of “Modern Family” was the subject of controversy when it showcased 3-year-old Lily dropping the “F bomb” (it was bleeped), while Meryl Streep even snuck in some nasty language while accepting her Golden Globe 2 weeks ago.
This begs the question: does this significant increase in foul language make it more likely for your child to swear, or is pop culture mirroring a real-life trend?
Below are some tips on how to deal with the issue:
Control what you do at home by watching your own language: Since parents are role models numero uno to their little ones, it’s important to refrain from using obscene language. This seems super obvious, but sometimes uttering a four-letter word is an automatic reaction after any moment of frustration! And remember that your toddler picks up on these occurrences, even when you say it under your breath. At the end of the day, the less you swear, the less it becomes a natural reaction for you. Try a buddy system with your husband or wife to keep each other on track, and if you do accidentally let one slip, just move along and ignore it – if you make it a big deal, they are more likely to pick up on it.
Monitor your children’s choice of entertainment: It’s always important to maintain a grasp on what your kids are watching on TV, what they’re listening to on the radio or downloading, and where they’re surfing on the Net. Explicit language is no longer exclusive to cable TV shows on HBO and Showtime, and can be found on network television; there are usually “adult supervision” disclaimers for TV shows that are inappropriate for younger viewers, so do heed the FCC’s warnings. Policing your children’s media consumption is a great step towards keeping their language clean.
Teach them right from wrong: With the increase of swearing on everything from reality TV to pop music (just take Cee Lo’s mega hit, “F*** You,” as an example), kids will likely stumble on foul language. And since you can’t control what they’re watching at other people’s homes (or might not be prepared for a swear word when you thought you were watching something innocent like an awards show), it’s important to lay down the law and tell your children that foul language is not acceptable and that polite people don’t use such language. Offer them alternatives, like “Oh man,” “shucks” or “rats.”
Don’t make a huge fuss about it… the first time: Sometimes kids are simply testing limits and might utter a swear word innocently, without even knowing what it means. If it happens once, ask them where they heard that word and let them know right away that it’s a bad word and is not to be used again. Don’t make a huge drama of it the first time, or they might test you by swearing again.
Then there’s the other side: Can explicit language in pop culture be a not-so-bad thing? The unfortunate reality is this: the media is becoming more and more lenient when it comes to swearing. Some groups believe (moderate) foul language creeping into pop culture can have some benefits, by desensitizing children. They believe that when children do hear a nasty four-letter word, they will hopefully get over the initial shock and heed their parents’ words: that swearing is inappropriate and will not be tolerated.
The best thing you can do as a parent in this case? Be involved in your children’s media consumption, be clear when differentiating right from wrong, and reinforce positive behaviors.
What do you think about swearing on television and in music? How do you deal with it in your home?