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Swearing on rise but parents still don’t want kids hearing it, report finds | Language


Swearing in everyday life is on the rise, according to research, but parents do not want to see it increase in the film and television their children watch.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) published a report on Thursday into attitudes towards swearing and whether people want a more liberal approach in media content.

It includes a survey of 1,000 people that found:

  • Six in 10 people say strong language, such as the F word, is part of their daily lives.

  • About a third of people say they use strong language more than they did five years ago. The figure is slightly higher for women (32%) than men (27%).

  • There is a generation divide when it comes to swearing with 46% of generation Zs – people born after 1996 – saying they frequently use strong language. That compares with 12% for people aged 55-64.

  • Asked about swearing in public, 65% of over-55s say they would never do it; for 18-24-year-olds the figure is 25%.

  • Most parents don’t want their kids hearing them swear with only one in five admitting they are comfortable using strong language in the home.

The research also asked whether parents would accept more frequent use of strong and very strong – eg the C word – language in content classified in the 12 category. The response to that was no.

David Austin, the chief executive of the BBFC, said children were watching more content on multiple screens, “and their parents want to protect them from strong and very strong language wherever they can and for as long as possible. Parents told us they are keen for media industries to share the responsibility – and that’s where we come in.”

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Austin said very strong language still had shock value and was the last taboo for some. “While it can occur in a variety of contexts, including comic and colloquial, it has a particularly distressing potency when used towards women, so it’s reassuring to hear people think we are getting it right when it comes to classifying these words.”

The report coincides with the BBFC’s first guide to what terms parents can expect to hear in differently classified TV shows and films. It says that for a U-rated film such as Monsters Inc, “look at the big jerk” will be as strong as it gets.

In Back to the Future, a PG film, Marty McFly exclaims “holy shit!” when armed terrorists approach in a van, but the word is not used again.

Bohemian Rhapsody is one of the 12/12A-rated examples: “Freddie fucking Mercury,” says Mercury in a scene in which he reveals to his bandmates that he has Aids. “You’re a legend,” says the drummer Roger Taylor. “You’re bloody right I am,” Mercury replies. The BBFC says viewers would have been expecting “sex, drugs and strong language”.

The report also touches on acronyms and concludes that the meaning of an example such as WTF is rarely lost on viewers, whatever age. “Therefore, the BBFC will classify acronyms as if they are a use of strong language in full.”



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