A new study by Brigham Young University professor Sarah Coyne shows that teen novels are dramatically more vulgar than videogames intended for teens. Coyne surveyed 40 of the best-selling teen novels and found 88% of them (35 books) included profanity. Only 34% of teen videogames included objectionable language.
“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.”
The study is disturbing for a number of reasons, both in its implication that diction has anything to do with moral decrepitude, but also in its reminder of how fearful and self-censoring many publishers and game developers are. Even with the inclusion of “dirty” words (what an idea!), no one would argue that teen literature is especially boundary pushing these days.
If games can’t compete with the level of vulgarity of milquetoast works Twilight and Pretty Little Liars what hope do they have dealing with even more provocative subjectives relevant to children, like sexual and physical abuse, abortion, and tribal violence of teenagers? Goichi Suda, if you’re reading this it’s time to make your high school abortion opus for the 3DS. The gauntlet has been thrown.