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. “
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Read the full study