Profanity in children’s entertainment damages youth

Younger generations’ exposure to profanity in the media and entertainment has proved in recent years to be drastically increasing, which may have some parents worrying whether or not a film from companies like DreamWorks or Pixar may be appropriate for their kids to watch. From works like “A Bug’s Life” from Pixar, to the newly released “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” from DreamWorks, vulgar language in youth films is used very casually and could prove harmful for young and teenage children.

Since Robert Altman’s 1970 movie “M*A*S*H” was the first American major motion picture to drop an f-bomb, expletives in cinema have skyrocketed, bleeding dangerously into children’s lives and dialogue. Clear signs of this have shown up in even more recent works: as of 2021, PG-rated movies were granted the ability to use language including “s—”, “b- —”, “a–” and “d—,” all of which were considered underneath the scope of “mild bad language,” according to a 2021 article in the Daily Mail. F-bombs are also on some occasions permissible as long as it is not too aggressive and is not a frequent occurrence. Although modern companies are currently working on limiting their foul language in animated children’s movies, there are still considerable instances of profanity coming from characters that young kids view as heroes and positive idols. Some examples include speech by protagonists in Pixar’s first movie, “Toy Story,” including insults like “idiot,” “dirtbag,” “shut-up,” “stupid” and several others, all repeated throughout the film. Additionally, in the newly released DreamWorks movie featuring its own fearless tabby cat, viewers are given a front-row seat to hearing their favorite character spout words like “hell,” “wuss,” “idiot” and “crap,” as well as a ten-second frame of a dog covered by bleeped-out swearing. These instances are just a few out of the many in a larger and increasingly popular trend movie-makers have been following to gain viewership and the attention of their viewers.

In reality, employing the use of profanity has very short-term effects, grabbing the attention of its older viewers while younger ones watch in confusion. Also referred to as the “shock factor,” incorporating swearing provokes rapid psychological reactions and puts the character speaking in an authoritative position. Additionally, directors use profanity as a way to make their audience laugh and keep them wanting to watch more, but this practice is inherently flawed. Profanity is slipped in mindlessly, presenting humor to the audience that is outwardly crass and superficial.

Still, while this system does benefit filmmakers and elicit emotions in viewers, there is a great chance that with its continued use, the young, impressionable children of our next generations could form destructive habits as they grow and collaborate with others, seeing insulting and harmful speech glorified in the entertainment they watch.

According to studies by Discover Magazine, being exposed to profanity at a young age, whether it be on video games, in one’s environment or in the movies, can increase “stress, anxiety, depression and a decreased sense of belonging.” Due to these sudden and intense feelings, children are also more prone to physical aggression, according to a study by TIME Magazine. Children who experience hearing and using these words in their lives are those who undergo early emotional, mental and sometimes physical repercussions for themselves and, in some instances, their peers.

Further, this is something that is already being addressed in movies and television today. From the coming-of-age flick “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” to the 2012 animated film “Brave,” Disney movies exhibit a constant pattern of teenage rebellion and ignorance of negative remarks made from both parents and children alike. This recurring theme in even our most juvenile-centered films depicts the normalization of using vulgar speech and action in real life; as younger viewers grow up watching live-action movies and remakes of their childhood favorites, it is getting harder and harder to shove the profanities, no matter how insignificant they may seem, to the side, as it is clear the standardization of using profanity in everyday life may very well be harmfully affecting kids in the long run.

Some may say that a reduction of curse words in animated movies will have little to no effect on children, as cussing is becoming more and more normalized among many youth in our society.

Nevertheless, this is incorrect. While it is nearly impossible to limit the amount of cursing children hear around other influences such as parents and peers, it is perfectly reasonable to limit the destructive language used in television and children’s movies that is blocking more uplifting and constructive lessons, themes and morals from being conveyed.

Aggression and depression is on the rise among our youth. Instead of letting our future generations grow up listening to harmful language on the entertainment they watch, we should be focusing on raising them to follow positive and morally just behaviors.

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