The “desensitisation to swearing” scapegoat

In modern British society hearing a child swear should be like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs. Or hearing the dog swear, whichever image seems more unsettling.


There’s a world of English language that should be off-limits to children. So when a profanity slips out of a child’s mouth it should really be the responsibility of a parent or guardian to steer their little angel away from what could potentially develop into an unattractive verbal habit.

Of course this doesn’t always present as an easy challenge, but the rare use of offensive language should be considered a verbal art only to be practiced by adults. Is this actually the case? Sadly not. The act of swearing is quickly losing its taboo connotations as culture becomes more accustomed to the use of such language, and parents of young children appear to follow suit.

Swearing in front of a young child probably doesn’t seem such a massive issue today. But how does this affect the behaviour of kids? Can the use of language really be blamed for developing ‘naughty children’? Of course no one really wants to hear the ‘F’ word come from a child’s mouth, but realistically bad behaviour doesn’t develop from bad language. Words only carry socially constructed meaning, the absence of which isn’t going to stop children getting a black eye, or prevent him from being disruptive in class.

It would be nice to live in a world where children are polite and well mannered, but in some respects desensitisation to offensive language seems to be used as a scapegoat for a wider social issue unassociated with linguistics. If a child uses a ‘bad’ word, is the world going to cave in? Probably not. But it’s an easier method of blame to ‘fix’ than the overall poor behavior of children and the wider social causes of such behaviour.


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August 2021
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