Exposing Children to Profanity
The United States Constitution gives Americans many rights. One of those rights is the freedom of speech. A controversy has erupted in the United States because the government is unable to determine the limitations on this right. “In early America when our forefathers wrote the Constitution, profanity was not accepted” (Shoeder 72). This makes determining the true definition of “speech” difficult. A majority of people believe profanity is an acceptable form of language. These people feel that they are free to say what they want without worrying about the rights of others. Due to this insensitivity, a child has a hard time walking down a street without hearing offensive words. For example, there is a man standing on a street corner harassing another person. The child hears profane words used by the man, and from this the child relates anger with profanity. Another example is a woman seen arguing with a cashier using profanity in an attempt to get her way, and the child with her begins to believe that to get your way you must cruse. A third example is a waitress having a bad day, and taking it out on the customers the child in the booth next to the customers and the waitress is thinking that this is a proper way to communicate. All of these examples are using improper language for children to hear (Shoeder 72). Parents are then expected to explain and make excuses for the vocabulary being used by others. Profanity has become uncontrollable and has had a great role in the moral decay of our society. The main goal for parents and government officials should be the regulation of profanity in the United States.
Adults are formed through the experiences of their childhood. The way a person acts and speaks is often determined at a young age. When a parent uses profanity, a child may feel free to also use these words. For instance, a mother may not intentionally use profanity when cutting her finger while in the kitchen. As a result of the mother’s action, a child may use the same words when they get hurt (Hochman 29). Parents play a great part in a young person’s upbringing so it is not surprising that children imitate their guardians’ actions. Growing up without a role model forces a child to look for other sources to imitate. Television has role models for children to admire most of them are not beneficial for children. Unfortunately this does not stop them from imitating their role models’ language. Profanity has become entertaining to television viewers, many of them being children. Television’s role in our society is much more powerful than one may realize. The Television reaches more than 190 million viewers in America. Almost 100 million of these are children. The regulations on Television are relatively good for channels that broadcast through the air. Stations that broadcast on cable systems do not have as many restrictions as the air stations so the cursing and violence in programs on these stations are not as regulated. With some cable systems a person can order pay-per-view. This is ordering a show or an event and paying for that access. Many of these pay-per-view shows are pornographic in nature. The problem is that all you need to order these programs is a credit card. These shows can be easily viewed by children that have access to a parent’s credit card. (Hochman 30)
Profanity is more widely accepted today compared to in the past. “The Movie Industry, prior to 1966, did not produce an abundance of films that contained profanity. After this year the profanities in movies became more acceptable and only progressed as the years went on” (Rowe 14). Some examples expressing the progression of profanity are, Rocky which was made in 1976. This contains 36 curse words compared to Scarface, made in 1984, which contains 299 curse words (Rowe 15). These are movies that have become easily available for children to see. Parents should monitor what their children see at the movies, but should not rely on the counting of profanities by such groups as the Entertainment Research Group, rather they should use more common sense (Rowe 16).
The Movie Industry has a rating system for the movies it produces. The rating system is as follows: A “G” rating is used for movies that are suitable for children. The “PG” rating is used for movies that do not have cursing or violence and are suitable for children accompanied by a parent. A “PG13” rating is used for movies that have cursing and limited violence and are not suitable for children under the age of 13. The “R” rating is used for movies that have an abundance of cursing, violence, and sexual content and is suitable for viewers 17 and older. A “NC17” rating is used for movies that have an abundance of curing, graphic violence, and sexual activity. “NC17” rated movies are restricted for mature viewers age 17 or older. The “X” rating is used for movies that have detailed sexual content and are not suitable for viewers under the age of 21 (Levee 1). “The Movie Industry has become very generous with the ratings they have been giving out over the last ten years. It seems that a movie today with a “PG13” rating would have had an “R” rating 10 years ago” (Levee 8). In today’s world the movies seem to be imitating life, or is it the other way around? The violence, profanity and sexual content in movies has its roots in the worst part of our society. In society today it seems that life is imitating art.
The Federal Communications Commission was instituted to keep profanity and violence off Radio and Television. The FCC prosecutes those who abuse the use of profanity on the air. Radio personality, Howard Stern, was reprimanded by the government for using profanity on his national talk show. The FCC levied a $105,000 fine against a Los Angeles station that broadcasts his show (Levee 8). “Children are becoming confused as to what is the proper form of the English language, because parents tell them the language is unacceptable, yet it is broadcast on the radio” (Rowe 17).
Profanity will become an even greater problem when a child learns to read. Profanities not only can be heard, but also read. They can be read on bumper stickers, T-shirts, books, and magazines. For example, a recent comic book distributed by Marvel comics contained 12 curse words. This comic’s main readers are children. From comics to books, the profanity found in today’s literature would not have been acceptable forty years ago. The book Gone With the Wind that contains only one curse word, was made into a movie. The movie was considered to be rated “R” which was unheard of for its time. Therefore, many parents refused to claim the book as a piece of literature and did not allow their children to read it. Try to imagine those same parents reading a book or watching a movie today (Shoeder 73).
Profanity has even reached the world of video games. In the past video games were slow, with graphics and sound that were very simple and innocent. However, with the invention of CD ROM, a games’ graphics and sound are very clear and crisp. This opens the door for sexual games with both nudity and profanity. To combat this problem the Software Publishers Association has devised a rating system for computer games. The manufacturer will have to put labels on their games that will include ones for violence, sex and nudity, and profanity (Golanski 58).
Profanity has even affected how many people play and look at sports. The cameramen at sporting events have increasingly focused in on athletes who, after failing in some way, go into a tirade of profanity. Even though the language is inaudible the words can easily be interpreted and found to be offensive. Children who watch these tirades on television have a tendency to imitate their favorite star’s actions if they are frustrated when competing (Montville 98). Sports star Thurman Thomas running back for the Buffalo Bills allegedly had a profanity-laced outburst at four young boys who asked him for his autograph. Although he denies the accusations, he was heard at a press conference just weeks before cursing the reporters and the opponents he had just faced (Wolff 16).
In an article in Newsweek it talks about a woman who was surprised when a store clerk tries to protect her from a customer’s foul mouth. It goes on to say “While everyone seems to agree that something should be done about profanity, few people ever do anything about it, and most people contribute to the problem” (Maurer 19). Even if you are not listened to by the offender at least you are trying to make an effort to clean up society’s mouth.
Profanities exist in all facets of our society and are depleting us of morals. Many parents are failing to teach their children the importance of proper behavior and respectable language. This is an uncontrollable problem that is being assisted by the profanity. It is our nation’s responsibility to set a moral example for its children. If as a nation, we fail to do this for our children then we must be prepared to face the consequences. One of the consequences may be that our children will never know the correct form of language. Morals may just be something of the past. If this occurs, then our society will be in turmoil.
Golanski, Candace. “Rating the fun stuff.” Popular Science Dec. 5, 1994: 16.
Hochman, David. “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” US June 1994: 29-30.
Levee, Michael A. “In the Cursed ’90’s, Expletives Are Seldom Deleted.” Chicago Tribune Nov. 6 1992: sec 1: 1+.
Maurer, Sandra Flahive. “Mind your tongue, young man.” Newsweek Oct. 17, 1994: 19.
Montville, Leigh. “Point After: Stop Reading Those Lips!” Sports Illustrated Oct. 29, 1990: 98.
Rowe, Chip. ” ‘Male dicta’ Favors the Whole Truth.” Washington Journalism Review Jan. 1993: 14-16.
Schoeder, Ken. “Education Briefs: Getting Your Words’Worth.” Educational Digest Mar. 1992: 72-73.
Wolff, Alexander. “Offensive back.” Sports Illustrated Dec. 5, 1994: 16.