• PTC Releases Trash-Talking Teens Study

    by  • January 26, 2017 • Broadcast Decency, Profanity, Sex, Studies • 6 Comments

    Children and teens are using more profanity and sex talk on TV shows. 


    In a new study of prime-time television, the PTC found that the broadcast networks are increasingly creating and airing programs in which teenage and even child characters use overtly sexualized and adult language.


    The study found:


    • Disney-owned ABC had the largest number of instances of profanity and sexualized language spoken by children, with 81 instances of profanity and 42 instances of sexual dialogue in the study period.


    • ABC’s The Real O’Neals contained more sexual dialogue involving teen and child characters than any other primetime program on broadcast TV.


    • Fox, with its large Sunday-night “Animation Domination” cartoon block, has the second-most programs containing child and teen characters using profanity and sexual dialogue.


    Scientific studies suggest that when children see certain behaviors modeled by similarly-aged characters on television, they will perceive those behaviors as normative and acceptable. Dr. Brad J. Bushman, professor of Communication & Psychology at Ohio State University, said that children can be affected by hearing this kind of explicit language on TV. “Based on social learning theory, the findings from this content analysis study are troubling. Children are likely to learn profanity and sexual language from the models they observe in the TV programs they watch. Because these models are rewarded for their behaviors (e.g., audience members laugh when they use profane or sexual language) and because the models are young people viewers can identify with, viewers should be especially likely to imitate them.”


    “It’s bad enough that children are increasingly exposed to vulgar dialogue on television at all hours of the day. It’s even worse that they’re seeing the vulgarity coming directly from the lips of other children. This troubling new trend should concern every family, given the inarguable evidence that children are influenced by what they see on TV,” said PTC President Tim Winter. “


    To see video examples, click here



    Read the full study




    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

    6 Responses to PTC Releases Trash-Talking Teens Study

    1. Michael N. Bowers
      December 22, 2017 at 2:38 pm

      It is like a department store, they only sell what they can make money on. Television is the same, if enough people stop tuning in to it they will not air it on television. Quit watching the trashy shows and tune into the more family friendly shows, like Little House on the Prairie. Watch it in reruns instead of Jerry Springer and sooner or later Jerry Springer will not last because the advertisers will loose money and the stations will loose viewers. Simple as that. If parents don’t want a child to watch it, the off button on the remote is very useful.

    2. Siliconia
      February 6, 2017 at 8:02 pm

      When I was in sixth grade, we read the book “Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry”. At one point, that book had the n-word in it. I read the excerpt containing the n-word to my parents, not realizing it was a bad word. I was told never to say that word again, and I have never spoken it again, nor have I ever typed it. My parents put me on the hook, and held me responsible for my actions.

      I imagine if your kids read an excerpt from a book that was required school reading that contained an offensive word, you would have complained to the school about it. My parents did not do that. By portraying Hollywood/popular culture as the enemy and children as helpless pawns/monkeys/robots/victims instead of human beings, you are excusing and defending children’s bad choices. When too many people fail to take responsibility for their actions, you create a generation of people who fail to live up to their potential, who believe the world owes them something, who cause destructive social phenomenon such as Occupy Wall Street.

      Last time I checked, the job of parents was to prepare their children for the world, not prepare the world for their children.

      • Christopher Gildemeister
        February 8, 2017 at 4:18 pm


        Would you oppose a drug dealer setting up shop outside of an elementary school and offering samples of heroin to kindergarten kids? If so, why? Isn’t that just shirking your responsibility as a parent? Isn’t calling a police officer to arrest the drug pusher just excusing and defending your children’s bad choices? Just tell your kids, “Don’t do drugs,” and that solves the problem, right?

        Unfortunately, the real world is a bit more complex than you make it out to be. Yes, parents need to educate their children about appropriate behavior; but they also are responsible for protecting their children from malign forces in the world.

        Media has grown all-encompassing in today’s world. We no longer live in the 1950s, where there is one television set in the living room, and parents control what is seen. Between computers provided by the school, smartphones, tablets, and the advertising and other media that bombards our children, electronic media is the environment in which our children live. Saying, “tell them to make better choices” is like telling a child exposed to toxic air pollution, “don’t breathe.”

        Yes, parents bear responsibility, but those who create the media share in that responsibility. Yes, parents have a responsibility to teach their children to wear seatbelts and drive safely; but Detroit also has a responsibility to manufacture cars that don’t explode, on which the brakes work.

        It’s a collaborative effort. Most parents ARE doing their part. We just ask that when it comes to protecting vulnerable children, the media cooperate with parents, not oppose them.

        • February 15, 2018 at 6:09 pm

          It isn’t like they are going to work at McDonalds or Krusty Krab (as seen in Sailor Mouth) so slip the lips and no one gets hurt.

    3. Robert
      January 27, 2017 at 10:31 am

      Didn’t you guys already release this study?

    4. Jonathan
      January 27, 2017 at 9:02 am

      So what? People are going to swear it’s not a big deal. It’s when and how often you use profanity that matters. I wrote a screenplay that uses a ton of strong language and one of the characters is 15. Why did I do that? It fits the world my characters are in and their personality.

      The only time children are “influenced” by what they see on TV is when the parents don’t teach their kids.

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