Children and films containing swearing

6 Nov 2018

 

I have recently been mulling over the different approaches that parents adopt towards showing their children films with swearing in it. After speaking to different parents, it does seem like there is a wide variety of what people deem acceptable.  

 

There is also the debate as to what actually constitutes swearing and that will always divide opinion. Clearly there are some words that are unambiguously in the swear camp, which you don’t need me to provide examples for. But, there are some words which are a bit less clear. Where do you sit with words like hell, damn, bugger, bitch, crap, ass and the like?  It's murky water, in my opinion.   

 

The questioning of cursing in films came up mainly when I recently decided to show my son the film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the 2014 one, not the 1991 version). Naively, I did not actually check the certificate and assumed, from memory of watching it in the past, that it would be suitable for viewing by a five-year-old. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the film contained a few curses and a few questionable swears – IMDb confirmed it as a 12A certification and that words like "damn", "hell", one use of "bitch", and one "s***" are used in the movie. What was incredible and quite worrying is that I must have watched the whole film with him and yet I didn’t notice a single one of these, which emphasises how conditioned I am to swearing in films.  

 

One difficulty is that it does seem that most films have swearing in them or contain at least some of the questionable words.  If you wanted to avoid it entirely you’d have to show children the Teletubbies on repeat and nothing else. Even then, Stinky Pinky or whatever his name is rocks out the odd S#%* under his breath.  I’m sure of it. 

 

One of my current theories is to judge whether my child repeating the said word at the top of his voice in the playground would be appropriate or not. For example, would I be happy with The Pioneer shouting “yippee ki yay m***** f*****!!” at the top of his voice to little Tommy on the slides? Probably not. 

 

It is inevitable that everyone will have different levels of tolerance on swearing on TV or otherwise. I certainly have no issue with what other people choose to show their own children as it’s a matter of individual choice and parenting.  However, there is always the consequence of a child using the language it has become accustomed to with other children and I wouldn't want my children to recite the intro to Pulp Fiction amongst polite company. So, what are your rules in the things you show your children? Is it possible to abide entirely by the certification of the films or do you rely on a gut feel of what is right or wrong?

 

 

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