According to a study published recently in the journal Pediatrics, it can also influence aggressive behavior.
“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.
The ratings, she said, were mostly 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.”
As many as 222 children between ages 11 and 15 from a large Midwestern middle school took part in the survey. The number of girls among the participants was 135.
Researchers asked the students 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.”
Aggression, the study said, 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.
Cautioning parents to adapt tough measures in tackling the menace, Coyne said: “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…They could be a little more vigilant in terms of profanity exposure.”
You can read the abstract of the study here (External link).