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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  1. 0
    bluelightrevival says:

    How is that even an issue? There is no evidences that reading about sex can cause damage to a healthy person. It can in fact be a good thing by letting someone explore there sexuality in a safe way.

  2. 0
    SimonBob says:

    Ah, but that's okay, because porn in books is actually "literature."  It's only when it's in a "lesser" medium (eg. visual, popular) that it becomes dirty smut.

  3. 0
    Chris Kimberley says:

    For me a bigger issue than the swearing (kids probably hear worse at school) is the fact that a kid can walk into a public library, pick up a "romance" (read porn) novel from the shelf, and take it through the self-checkout.

    Sexually explicit material in a kid's hands with 0 adult interaction…. it's almost like the internet.

  4. 0
    Hevach says:

    The distinction between smut and literature is generally made, though. The odd thing is, they seem to make the distinction backwards.

    On the one hand, I have never heard of anyone attempting to ban romance novels, or even have them age restricted (there is no ID check buying them and they're freely available in the library), despite the fact that they are literally porn. Some of them are as depraved as anything on Redtube,  and all of them are as ridiculously framed in arbitrary scenarios as any terrible 70's porn.

    Yet on the other hand, recognized cornerstones of literature are challenged constantly because they use the word "member" in a suggestive way.

    I suppose I could have just overlooked challenges against romance novels, but even if I did, the sheer volume of them (they dominate supermarket book aisles, entire publishers are exclusively dedicated to them with more releases a year than anyone could hope to read) would suggest that any challenge that can be overlooked is immensely out of proportion.

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