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Lying To Our Children: What Are “Bad Words”?

It’s a parent’s responsibility to teach kids right from wrong. Of course, that includes informing them about the evils of using foul language and what “foul language” entails. Children are told that “Hell” and “damn” are only to be used in religious contexts to illustrate the anger of a chosen deity, while uttering the likes of “ass” and “bitch” would garner an instant soap-to-the-mouth experience. But sometimes, parents lie to their children! They lie to them about foul language!

Growing up in the 1990’s, many students were taught that the likes of “butt”, “zit”, “sex”, “foxy”, “swear”, “fart”, etc. were all bad words. Hearing someone utter one of these words caused the entire classroom to gasp in horror like someone had just dropped the f-bomb. If a cartoon character said any of these terms, a sense of adrenaline began rushing through you, as you quickly looked around the room to make sure your mother had not heard the utterance, lest she turn off your television for “watching filth”.

These teachings were to the extent that one time my kindergarten teacher used the phrase “No ifs, ands, or buts”, and several members of my class became upset at this tragic homonym mix-up. A little boy tried arguing with her about it, and when she said, “I said ‘buts’ not ‘butts’!” he argued that now she had said it multiple times and he would be telling his mother. One little girl actually cried that her teacher could be such a bad person.

All over the word “butt”.

You said “butt”! You’re going straight to Hell, mister!!

Similar events occurred in third grade, when one little girl decided to read the opening flap of her textbook–the part that lists the author information, copyright, and publisher–saw the word “sex” (referencing not discriminating based on sex) in the disclaimer, and was instantly upset that her arithmetic book had a bad word in it. Did she know what “sex” meant, whether in regards to biology or to intimate acts? Not in the slightest. She had just been taught that “sex was bad!” That same little girl, months later, accidentally said to her friends “I promise! I swear!” and instantly looked horrified and began praying to God, as she had been told never to swear.

She grew up and became a nun. Not even kidding.

Two decades later–I know, right?!–, many of these “nineties’ kids” are wondering why our parents lied to us. Why did they tell us that these were bad words, when by the fifth grade everyone know what the real bad words were. As my generation begins to have children of our own, many of us are reluctant to pass along these symbolic mistruths to them. We would rather teach them not to say what really constitutes as foul language, rather than nit-picking over other words that are completely fine to say in a PG-rated movie. At the same time, we don’t want our children to be known as “those foul-mouthed kids” for nonchalantly saying “My big sister has a bit zit” on the school bus one morning.

Does anyone even continue this trend, or is this just a baby-boomer faux-pas?

“We still teach the preschoolers in the school I work at that those words are ‘bad’,” admits Jillian Meinze of Louisville, Kentucky. “My reasoning behind it is that when they learn those words and what they mean, they think its funny. So they repeat it and make it into things inappropriate. For example: a little boy the other day was running around my classroom singing, ‘Booty butts, booty butts’ and slapping his butt as he did so.”

“Kids are always going to do and say inappropriate things,” counters Linda White, also of Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s part of being a kid. Take away their ability to be silly and say ‘fart’ at random times, and they’re going to find something else to take its place. That’s no reason to unfairly impact their vocabulary.”

Mommy, she has a bad word on her face!!

It’s the debate between pee and urine all over again.

But is it fair to eliminate certain connotations from our children’s minds just to “protect them” or to save our own faces? What happens when they grow up and realize that those words really aren’t bad words after all? What will they think about the other values we have taught them? Won’t they question those, too?

This is one of those tricky issues that has no concrete answer. No one likes being told how to parent their children, but odd parenting styles can negatively impact a child later on in life.

Weigh in below. Should we eschew telling our children that “butt” and “zit” are bad words?

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Your 5-Year-Old Has A Smartphone??

These days, it is almost a shock to see someone pull a mobile phone out of their pocket that is not one of the popular smartphones we all know and love—iPhones, Androids, and Blackberries are a common sight. Issues arise when it comes down to young children possessing these smartphones and their equivalents (i.e. iPod Touches, iPads, and Android Tablets). While some adults have no problem handing over the latest in modern technology to the next generation, others are crying foul at the sight of elementary school students owning more than the standard Nokia.

The main purpose for having any sort of mobile phone is for communication. Pay phones have become as scarce as a snowflake during a Louisville winter, meaning that one must have their own means of communication while out of the home. This holds true for both adults and children, and studies have shown that two out of three parents agree their child needs to own a cell phone by the age of thirteen—or when that child begins going on outings without their parents present.

That being said, any mobile phone has the basic talk and text capabilities needed to adequately provide this sort of communication. Why so many smartphones for the youths then? According to a recent survey, 70% of parents who purchased a smartphone for a child under twelve over a standard cell phone admitted to doing so solely to prevent their child from being teased by classmates, similarly to how kids will often make fun of those not wearing name brand clothing items. They are being used more as a fashion accessory for popularity than as a communications tool for safety.

Why? WHY?? I’m asking you WHY?!?!

“It’s crazy,” agrees Spencer Byrnes, a 22-year-old Louisville resident who only got his first smartphone last year. “I work with kids, and for this one little girl’s 7th birthday, her parents got her an iPhone. Another kid asked me why my phone had buttons on it.”

“It angers me to see kindergarteners texting on a Blackberry,” admits Emilia Rodriguez, who did not get a smartphone until she could afford her own bill and contract until age 19. “When I was their age, I had to use Styrofoam cups strung together on a string and pretend it was a landline connection. They have absolutely no use for a smartphone.”

The abundance of smartphones amongst young children may actually be exacerbating the bullying problem found in many schools. With the rise of “cyberbulling” on popular social media websites and web forums, smartphones increase the ease of access to these sites. Theoretically, cyberbulling could become a day-or-night affair if all of those involved have access to smartphones or similar variants.

Some parents argue that smartphones are an acceptable device for elementary and middle school students because they provide children with fun games to play, such as Angry Birds and The Oregon Trail. There are also many educational games to help students with math and science concerns. This, too, has met with opposition.

“The Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP exist for a reason,” argues Mike Nicholson, father of 2 elementary-age sons who do not own smartphones. “It’s true that there are child-friendly games on smartphone networks, but there are sturdier and cheaper devices that provide plenty of both fun and educational games for all ages without the need for contracts and data plans.”

The Nintendo 3DS, providing you with more games for less cost…and without the easy-to-shatter screen!

Many parents have gotten around mobile phones all-together with simpler variations like the LG Migo. The LG Migo features four buttons, each of which is pre-programmed with a phone number. This allows a child to be able to contact four pre-specified people to give parents and guardians a peace-of-mind, while also limiting texting and web use to family and emergency calls only.

In the past five years, smartphones have become commonplace, rather than just a tool for the elite. This shift in the mainstream is only naturally causing a shift in what is acceptable for our youths as well. As such, we are entering an era where parents need to understand the best need for each of their children before handing out iPhones and Androids like they are chocolate chip cookies.