Research: More Swearing in Teen Novels than in Video Games

We hear a lot about the explicit language found in many video games but a new study by a Brigham Young University social sciences professor says that the level of strong language in many popular teen novels is substantially worse than what is found in most video games on the market. According to a new study by Brigham Young University social sciences professor Sarah Coyne, bestselling novel meant for teens are rife with cursing – they contain twice the rate of cursing of most video games. Coyne's study also found that characters in adolescent fiction that swear are typically portrayed as wealthier, better looking, and more popular than "clean-mouthed" characters.

The information comes from a new study called Mass Communication and Society. In it Coyne examined profanity usage in 40 books from an adolescent bestseller list. She found that 35 of the 40 books (around 88 percent) contained profanity, compared to 34 percent in video games. On average, Coyne's study found that teen novels contain 38 instances of profanity, which she said, translates to almost seven instances of profanity per hour spent reading.

Coyne found that books in the Harry Potter and Twilight novels were pretty tame when it came to language, but Pretty Little Liars had an above-average amount of swearing with 80 objectionable words in a 298-page book. Coyne said that the book that contained the most profanity was Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamine.

Coyne was most concerned with the way characters that used profanity vigorously were often portrayed in a superior light.

"From a social learning standpoint, this is really important because adolescents are more likely to imitate media characters portrayed in positive, desirable ways," Coyne said, adding that teen books don't come with warnings about language or other indicators for mature content, like video games, movies and music often do.

"Unlike almost every other type of media, there are no content warnings or any indication if there is extremely high levels of profanity in adolescent novels," Coyne said. "Parents should talk with their children about the books they are reading."

You can learn more about the study here. It should be noted that Coyne does not recommend rating books aimed at teens.

Source: Chritisan Science Monitor

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