Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Is Profanity on TV Harmless?

Steven Tyler gets bleeped repeatedly on American Idol. Howard Stern, known for his use of profanity, is a judge on America’s Got Talent. I could make lists of people who are constantly bleeped on television due to their language. I find it completely unnecessary and a real lack of imagination when it comes to the English language.

My kids and I have this on-going conversation regarding profanity. They think TV reflects the way people talk in real life. I say TV has purposely increased its use of profanity and gives license to this behavior.  I don’t hear this amount profanity in the general public– not at my job, among my neighbors, in public places or with friends. This may be a generational shift because I didn’t grow up hearing profanity on so much media.


The increase in the use of profanity on TV is not my imagination. The Parents Television Council did a study in 2011 and found  that the amount and gravity of profanity on television is higher than ever. One reason had to do with a FCC ruling in July of 2010. Basically, a panel of judges allowed broadcasters to freely use expletives in the late night hours when challenged in court. Networks pressured the FCC to stop enforcing its decency laws. One result, is more language during the prime time hours. The study showed that the use of profanity is deliberate and pervasive.

My question is why? What’s the point of this? To teach our kids to be potty-mouthed? To what end?

Is this another attempt to desensitize the culture to rudeness?


People are influenced by what they hear and see on television, especially teens. Due to media influence, swearing has moved  from a language of restraint to one of license. It has becomes part of the normal landscape of television. And I believe this has something to do with the lack of civility that we continue to see in our culture.

So does P.M. Forni, co-founder of the Civility Project at Johns Hopkins University. When it comes to cursing, he says it is “Still the language of aggression… the precursor to violence. Very often, rudeness and cursing are the beginning of an escalation toward violence.  Words, our words, are like our hands.  They can soothe and heal, but they can also strike, which means they can hurt.”


Furthermore,  a study in Pediatrics linked profanity to increased violence.  Researchers found that exposure to profanity is moderately associated with acceptance and use. Both influence physical and relational aggression.

Bottom line, profanity is not harmless. If the end result can be less civility and more aggression, why do we want this and why are writers and media executives so bent on injecting profanity in so much media?

And scripture is not silent about the use of our tongue. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

The question is, Do we want to tear down or edify with our speech?  Seems like the choice is an easy one.


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