January 8, 2019 7:00 am
Updated: January 14, 2019 5:58 pm

Is it OK to swear around kids?

Benjamin Bergen found that while verbal abuse can be harmful, casual swearing around kids doesn’t have any impact on their well-being.

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Many parents are careful about what they say around their kids, but research suggests casual swearing is totally alright.

Cognitive scientist Benjamin Bergen, who’s also the author of What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves, found that while verbal abuse can be harmful, casual swearing around kids doesn’t have any impact on their well-being or emotional development.

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“The use of fleeting expletives doesn’t have any impact at all on their well-being, on their socialization… as far as we can tell,” Bergen said via Skype from San Diego. Bergen is a professor in the department of Cognitive Science at the University of California San Diego.

READ MORE: Don’t blame sugar for kids’ hyperactivity; sugar high is a debunked myth

Bergen said there’s a distinction between verbal abuse and casual swearing.

“Verbal abuse can come in all different varieties and that can include swearing and slurs.

“We can track over time how kids who are exposed to abusive language show increases in anxiety, depression and troubles in school.”

Watch below: Is it OK to swear around kids? Many parents are careful about what they say around their kids, but research suggests casual swearing is totally alright. Kim Smith reports.

Bergen has two young kids of his own, aged four and one-and-half, and said he will drop the casual expletive around his kids.

“We have come around to the research and let ourselves do naturally what we do at home, which is swear a little bit.”

Canadian comedian Derek Seguin and his three kids in this undated photo.

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Derek Seguin is a Canadian comedian from Montreal. He has no problem swearing on stage and around his kids at home, aged 19, 17 and 12.

“Every year I swear more and more in front of them,” Seguin said at his Montreal home. “It used to be that I’d only swear for dramatic effect when I was mad. And now it’s: ‘Pass the f—ing donuts,’ or whatever.”

Seguin said he’s become more lenient with his language as his kids age.

“I think when the first one was young I didn’t swear. I was very careful. Don’t want to mess up the baby,” he said.

His youngest was exposed to the most profanity at home, but Seguin said she swears the least.

READ MORE: Should Canadian schools have more recess breaks?

As for the concern about kids picking up on the language, Bergen said kids are more likely to learn profanity from their peers.

“There’s pretty good evidence that you’re not cool enough for your kids to copy you when it comes to swearing,” he said.

“Profanity is anti-authoritarian. It is breaking the rules to use profanity in public. If you, the ultimate authority figure for kids, are using it, then they don’t see it as that cool.”

However, Bergen said one thing kids might learn from parents is knowing when and where swearing is socially acceptable.


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