Your choice of words is important

Your choice of words is important

Many of you will have noticed that with the increased access to the internet, mobile phones and over 250 different global social media platforms the way in which people interact, talk, and behave has changed dramatically from a decade ago. What was once considered anti -social or offensive is now seen by some as more socially acceptable. The use of profanities, or swearing, is seen by many as one of the areas that has crossed over into a socially acceptable grey area. With the increased use of swearing within digital and print media, movies and digital games many people feel that the use of these words in the public and amongst mixed company is becoming more socially acceptable. Before I explore this statement further I would like to point out some scientific facts about “swearing”:

a) By the time a child starts school they know 30 – 40 swear words. Although the true meaning of some of these words are not always known,

b) The majority of swearing is done by adolescents, and unfortunately, male adolescents,

c) An increased use of swearing or profanities in conversation can be linked to an abnormal, impaired and slow development of the frontal lobe,

d) On average swearing makes up 0.5% of most people’s daily conversation (higher for those identified in c) above),

e) It is sometimes associated with a lack of creativity and a small vocabulary.

f) There is currently no link between swearing around children and their use of swear words or profanities. Most children will know some type of swear word or profanity by the time they are 2 years of age regardless of their exposure.

g) Exposure to swearing has increased, although there is no link between this increased exposure and an increased use of swearing.

The use of swear words and profanities is diverse and common in all cultures. They are often used to achieve some type of communication outcome such as, telling jokes or stories, stress management, fitting in with a crowd, a substitute for physical aggression or pain tolerance. The context, use and acceptability of swearing and profanities is ultimately determined by a community’s own moral and ethical values, and what they will considered to be socially acceptable.

Educational institutions recognise, promote and develop the values of courtesy, consideration, tolerance for others and respect for all. As a community these moral and ethical values usually support the institutions Mission and Vision. All educational institutions recognise that individuals will live their lives by certain standards and values in private. However, within the educational community of a school there is an expectation that all students live by the underpinning moral and ethical values and to maintain socially acceptable standards. These values are holistically maintained by the academic staff, school community and enforced by the Executive team. The moral and ethical values of the 21st Century student will ultimately be termed by the success of this holistic approach.


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