We have long suspected it, and now there is a study to prove it. Profanity in visual media, (read films and TV serials) spur violence in teens. The power of the visual medium is well known, indeed that is why advertisers spend billions of dollars on emotively crafted campaigns. If the visual medium can affect people in their decisions to buy stuff, why would it not affect them in their social relations?
Teens are the most vulnerable segment when it comes to being impacted by the media. The study says that profanity increases the chances of sliding into violence, by lowering our defenses against it.
The more important concern for parents and regulators are to see that research like these find their way into regulations of what can be shown in films, TV serials and games. Unless these deeper social issues are tackled head on, the dream of having a crime free society will remain a dream.
Brigham Young University researchers gathered information from 223 middle schools, the journal Paediatrics reports.
“Profanity is kind of a stepping stone,” said Sarah Coyne, professor of paediatrics at Brigham, who led the study, according to a university statement.
“You don’t go to a movie, hear a bad word, and then go shoot somebody. But when youth both hear and then try profanity out for themselves it can start a downward slide toward more aggressive behaviour.”
Brad Bushman, professor in mass communications and media expert at Ohio State University who was not involved with the study, concurred after reviewing the research.
“This research shows that profanity is not harmless,” said Bushman. “Children exposed to profanity in the media think that such language is ‘normal’, which may reduce their inhibitions about using profanity themselves.”
“And children who use profanity are more likely to aggress against others. These are very important findings for parents, teachers and pediatricians.”
The connection between profanity and adolescent aggression remained significant even while accounting for the influence of portrayals of aggression in the shows and games popular with the middle school students involved in the study.