Yesterday a lovely family came in to show me how well their son was doing. It was his birthday, he was 11. Mum and Dad don’t live together any more but get on very well and boy is clear that he is much loved. He had been quite depressed at school and threatening to harm himself. By encouraging the parents to take control of his life, to make rules that would be consistent, by taking away the pressure he felt, I hoped that things would get better for him. And they did – he is one of two boys who don’t like football, but so what. Now he has made a robot bug [with the help of an adult who did the soldering] and the whole school is impressed. He also did the wonderful coca cola and mentos experiment, which makes a glorious fountain, and is now interested in Pivot films.
I had never heard of pivot films. These feature almost stick figures but with bodies more like liquorice torpedoes, and the film maker moves the shape or redraws it to tell a story. Boy said could he show us the Best Pivot Film in the World on You Tube. Of course. So he took over the computer and found it. And suddenly there were quite a lot of not-terribly-nice words. His mum and dad sat back looking a little dazed. They did not look at me. The boy looked proud and I’m pretty sure he didn’t even hear the naughty words. Then Mum cleared her throat and asked if he had seen the film before and he said a confident Yes. I suspect that they had a conversation about his free access to the computer after they left.
But it really made me think about the increasing difficulty of protecting children from the unsavoury. Later parents told me that their boy had been accused of using the word ‘shag’- he hadn’t but they wondered how this word appeared in a primary playground. The awful thing is I think the words appeared casually.
On the radio yesterday they spoke of a ten year old whose son was in major trouble for calling someone Gay, twice. His mum was defending him saying that he had no idea what it meant, and people had called him the same name. I’m sure that’s true. Lots of children tell me they have been called names, and they often don’t understand the word but know it’s meant to be offensive. Later one, they halfly know, but cant possibly ask an adult because they will get into trouble. And so all sorts of unsavoury words float around – I’ve just paid a twelve year old a bonus because she hadn’t called anyone a Spazza, or mongol – she was using the words as an anti-bullying strategy.
But surely we are devaluing horrible words by turning them into common currency, and habituating the children to hearing such words in common parlance? I remember when the F word was absolutely shocking, not now. Is this a good thing?—————————————————-
I wrote the above four years ago. My feeling is that things are different again, with young people desensitised to all sorts of words and behaviours, through familiarity. EG Twerking? who had heard of it in June? Not a delicate activity. The F*** word is all over the place, twelve year olds take and post fotos of themselves naked on Facebook, and ar ethen destroyed by the backlash.
Should we be more overtly aware? Should we be doing something?