Google+ Reading Teen: Are Parents Idiots for Denying their Teen Books with the "F" Bomb?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Are Parents Idiots for Denying their Teen Books with the "F" Bomb?

Ok, often when I do these posts, someone gets the wrong idea about here's what I hope you understand:  I'm not for banning books or censorship.  I think everyone has the right to write whatever he/she wants, and to sell it in whatever way he/she wants.  My goal is to inform, and maybe start a discussion.  I'm not closed-minded, I like having these discussions because often it really makes me think about things, and sometimes change my mind, be nice!!  :)

Here's what I want to discuss.  In my endless search for good books, I came across an author's VLOG response to parents who don't pass on her books to their kids because she uses the "F" bomb.  Here's the video.

Ms. Pearce says that she is bothered that people don't want to recommend her book to teens, or pass it on to their daughters because of the language that she decided to use in the book.  These adults she describes as "hyperactive" and sarcastically infers that they don't already know that teens have heard the "F" word at school and in other places.  Then she explains that parents' two choices are to either stick their fingers in their ears like 3 year olds, or use the opportunity to discuss the appropriate times to use cuss words.  She says that she advocates books that allow teens to speak in a realistic manner and that the book as a whole is more important than a single word.

Here are my issues:
1.  If you want people to really change the way they think about a subject, it's probably not a good idea to try to make them feel like idiots for having an opinion or belief system.  Parents who want what's best for their kids aren't idiots, and they've probably spent more time thinking about what's best for their child and why than anyone else.

2.  Ms. Pearce (and, I'm sure other authors) wants people to respect her right to write what she wants in her books, but she isn't respecting parents' (and other adults') rights/beliefs/opinions about what's best for their own children.  That seems like a double-standard.

3.  When she decided to write material that she knew some people would have a problem with, she shouldn't be surprised when some people have a problem with it.  She even said that sometimes the best word to use is the one that's going to get you slammed in reviews, but then she complains about getting slammed in reviews.

4.  Parents have plenty of opportunity to talk about the merits/demerits of cussing without using her book as an example.  No one should assume that just because a parent doesn't hand over a book with bad language (or sexual content, or whatever they have a problem with), it means that they aren't capable of having healthy conversations about the subject(s).  Or that parents who don't want to say, "Here, kids, read this stuff I don't agree with...enjoy!" are just "ignoring something scary" to make it go away.

5.  Not all teens are hearing these things every day at school.  There are over a million kids that are home schooled in the US and millions more that go to Christian/Muslim/or other religious schools.  Although I do know that religious schools can have their share of "bad behavior", many of the teens do not use that kind of language.  To say that all teens use/hear this stuff is demeaning to teens and an exclusionary statement.

6.  Just because kids hear cuss words/see things we cringe about/hear about sex etc. at school, doesn't mean that parents should just say, "Oh well!  I give up!"  The argument that they already hear it at school makes no sense to me.  Wouldn't the fact that they hear it at school all day mean, as a parent, that you wouldn't want to add even more of that into their already filth-cluttered lives?  Shouldn't home be the one place that kids look to for guidance about how to behave as a responsible teen/adult?

7.  If the merits of the book as a whole are so much more important than the "one word", then why use the word?  If the book is such a fantastic thing that teens should be reading, why exclude teens who don't want to add to the filth that they already hear every day, or teens whose parents want their home to be the one place they aren't hearing (reading/seeing) that type of stuff?  I've heard over and over that writing needs to have all of that stuff in it because it makes it real, and teens won't relate if it's not in there.  Really?  So, if a book is really well written and has a great storyline, teens are going to throw it across the room and say, "I can't has no cussing!"  I've never read that review.  I have, however, read many reviews that complain about the cussing.  So, what about the kids that don't cuss/have sex/etc?  What are they supposed to be relating to?

     I think, like a lot of people out there, that Ms. Pearce has an opinion about what she thinks is the right way to parent. I don't have a problem with this. Everyone has the right to their opinion. My problem is the way that she seems to be disrespecting parents who are trying to do what is best for their kids.  I agree that having a discussion about whether or not bad language (along with other touchy topics) should be present in YA lit and passed on to teens, is a great idea.  I just think it should be done with respect.  What do you think?  I'd love to hear your opinions!  (p.s. I love Jackson's books!)



  1. I'm not familiar with her book, and my kids are now adults with kids of their own. I don't think books should be forbidden to kids because of language however. If it's a good book, with a good message, then kids should be able to read it. I don't mean 10-year-olds, but 14 and up. That's just me.
    You asked. Hope I didn't offend.
    Just dropped by from SITS to say hi; hope you will do the same.

  2. Over from FF and so very glad to have found your blog :)

    I love your response to the author's stand. I don't think I'm an idiot or naive, and my own students use the F bomb before and after class and while they are whispering to their classmates. That doesn't mean that they use that language in classroom discussions or in their papers. If I have a choice, I most assuredly am going to direct my own kids to other lit.

  3. I agree with what you said wholeheartedly! You put into words just what I was thinking. I found her response very offensive and rude. Thanks for your take on it... very well said!!

  4. As a parent, I don't have any problem with cuss words in books. My kids know they aren't allowed to say them, because they upset other people. Cuss words are just words, nothing more. People give them the offensive "power" they have. The same with racial slurs and other prejudicial words. That's my personal viewpoint I try to pas on to my kids. I don't try to make other parents think the same way.

    I completely believe that kids can't be sheltered as much as a parent would like. Kids hear stuff. It happens. It's up to the parents to talk about these things. It's called parenting.

    I have no problem with a parent choosing not to buy a book for their child for whatever reason they have. I do have a problem when those parents try to push their beliefs on everyone else's children by trying to have these books banned completely.

    No one should tell a writer what to write. And no one should tell a parent how to parent. We all do what we think is right for our own. No one should bash anyone else's choices and I think in this case, both the writer and the parents are both crossing the line a little.

  5. I'm over from Friday Follow you, and intend to follow.
    I think that as much as it can be shocking to read it in a book, kids will hear it else where. As much as we want to, we cannot shelter every single aspect of life from them, and even if we could, would that really prepare them for reality?
    I would rather embrace that a generation of video gamers is picking up a book!!

  6. I liked your post very much and agreed with what you say. Look at Twilight - is there any swearing in it? Not that I remember and kids/teens love it. Cuss words are not required to get kids into reading. I will direct my kids away from books loaded with cuss words until I deem them mature enough to not be influenced by them (and they do have an impact or people wouldn't use them). Cuss words are never ok in my book. They degrade humanity no matter in what context. And that's never cool, in my opinion.

  7. I gave you 5 stars! I couldn't have said what you said any better!

  8. I agree! I loved what you said and thought you put it very well. Jackson Pearce's comments were rude and degrading to parents who choose to take a stand. I don't appreciate words like the "f" word even in books that I read. I understand words are words but they "are" offensive whether people want them to be or not. I think that she could have used an opproach that got her same point across without being rude.

  9. sad, she just doesn't get it.

  10. i didn't know there were appropriate times or merits to using cuss words...

  11. I really enjoyed reading that. I couldn't agree with you more. While I'll admit to dropping the F-bomb myself on occasion, it's almost always unnecessarily. I say “almost” because I'm cutting myself a little slack, but truthfully, I could get by fine without it – we all could really. It’s unarguably a vulgar word, but vulgarity is its purpose. The word has as much to do with sex as “BS” has to do with what comes out of the back end of a bull – almost nothing. So maybe there’s a time a place for it but that time and place is different for everyone.

    But more to your point, while I support artistic freedom completely, more than that, I support a parent’s right to decide what’s best for his/her child. While I was always more concerned about my child’s exposure to violence than to sex or language, I’m completely okay that that other parents would put equal emphasis on all of it – or none of it. It’s not my job to judge. It’s my job to raise my child in a way that I see fit. I don’t see anything that you’re doing as being judgmental. You’re deciding what’s appropriate for your child and making other people aware that may share your views so they can make appropriate decisions for their own children.

    It’s a paradox that this woman who obviously exercises her right to free speech would criticize a parent for exercising that same right.

    For what it’s worth, you’ve got my support

  12. An F-Bomb here and or there, doesNOT make a writer good or bad- nor does it make a story good or bad ... I think it's fins quite frankly- I mean GEESH sometimes, the FBomb is the only word that works in a sentancce (I am a writer- I get it ;-) And I am mother of soon to be teens so I'm lookin' forward to reading some more here ;-)Happy FF- I am sooo following you now- hope you can stop by my place soon ;-)

  13. The one thing that she mentioned was for parents to talk to their kids like that what she was doing when she was saying "la la la" and holding her ears. We teach our kids to be respectful. The thing is....a good writer should be able to tell a good story without using those words. It sad to think that using this word is the only way you can describe the anger or whatever it is you might be using it for. And it's just so unbecoming.

  14. Very well written and am following you from FF even though SITS sent me over earlier this morning. I hope you'll come check out our story at Have a great weekend.

  15. As a parent that has raised 2 and curently raising the third I applaud you on your post. I found it very well thought out and very well put. I know that my kids have heard all manner Of cuss words even though I homeschool. That being said why would I want to expose them to it even more?

  16. I think it shoulsd be up to the parents whether they let their kids read it or not. There is a certain age 16/17 where I would be comfortable with mine reading books with the "f" bomb. The author is definitely getting alot of exposure for her book though!

    Stopping by from the Friday Follow hop.I'm your newest follower. Beautiful layout on your blog. If you get a chance pop over to my corner of BloggyLand!

  17. Wow. Thanks. You articulate my ideas/feelings so well.

  18. My mom let me read novels with graphic sex scenes when I was 11. Here I am, graduating with a master's degree on a full scholarship, pure as driven snow. In short, I turned out a-okay. :)

    My mother knew the benefits of reading those books far outweighed the risks. I believe I owe much of my writing skills from reading those literature, in spite of the fact that they may be too salacious for a kid. Mom knew that I was smart enough to know that what was written was just words on a page, and I would never do them in real life.

    It's your life, and they're your kids. Each parent has the freedom to raise her kids the way she sees it, the way a writer can write whatever she wants, in order to make her characters seem more realistic.

    I susbscribe to this belief, though, one that was written by Frank McCourt: "Parents have an exaggerated idea of their children's innocence."

    Stopping by from SITS!

  19. Thanks, guys for stopping by!

    @Rachel sounds like you were a pretty responsible teenager. Me...not so much :)

  20. I agree with the author completely.
    If her book is good and has merit then who cares about one F word. I don't. My kid will not start cursing because he reads a book with a curse word in it : ) That is what I know for sure.

  21. The point I was trying to make wasn't whether or not kids should be allowed to read it. It was that all parents should be respected for making the choices they feel are best for their families. If you want to try to change someone's mind, you're not going to get very far by belittling them. They're going to automatically stop listening to anything you have to say.

  22. Yeah, I definitely think that parents can go overboard. But that's usually out of fear, or sometimes even a power trip. But I don't think that means that I should swing the pendulum to the opposite side either. I think that you should expose your kids to things, but at appropriate ages and with guidance. If you don't know what your kids are reading, how do you know what to talk with them about? And what if they're getting the wrong information? Just because an author is published, doesn't mean what they're saying is right.

    As far as the video goes, I can understand that she's annoyed, but it still stands that if she really wants to change people's minds, she's not going to accomplish it like that. I tend to agree with her about one "F" word not being that bid of a deal. But the way she stated it was offensive.

    Love the discussion!

  23. Language in books doesn't bother me too much (though I hate when it's excessive) and it wouldn't bother me much if I was giving the book to my teen. Sex, however, does (both for me and future children). There are images I don't need, and there are images that my child doesn't need. I'm not for censoring, either, but as long as a child is under my protection I'll limit their exposure.

  24. Yeah, she gets annoyed sometimes! She does a lot of Vlogs and can sometimes be offensive, but I still love watching them and get a kick out of her. I read her book Sisters Red and it's one of my all time favorites. And her video reviews are hilarious! I just didn't care for the way she attacked parents in this one :)

  25. My son is grown, but this is really good stuff. I love that we live in a country where we can express opposing views. I haven't read her books, but I do think if you are an author, and your audience is YA, then you have a certain responsibility. For example, if the f word is only used once in a book - then you have to wonder why it's there at all.

  26. Very well written and a well thought out argument. Thank you for "saying" what so many of us parents are thinking. God bless.

  27. I was thinking today... I "censor" what my kids consume in all sorts of ways. ie. I don't let them eat junk food all day. And someone once said to me, reading/watching entertainment that has that really, bad, inappropriate piece in it is kind of like eating a delicious meal with a piece of poo in it... The meal might be great, but there is that one thing in it that just doesn't belong. Just a thought.
    BTW I think that parents censoring their kids entertainment/books is TOTALLY different than societal book banning. We must respect freedom of speech and opinion. Respect is so very, very important. That's my say.

  28. @Carrie K I think that may be the best analogy I've ever heard!! Plus it's hilarious!! I totally agree about the banning too!

  29. You know what's odd? By age 6, I was so far beyond reading kids' books -- they literally bored me to tears because they were just DUMB, in my six-year-old opinion -- that my mother had no choice but to buy me adult books, or face a really bored little girl who would refuse to read anything at all. This means I was reading books by such authors as Betrice Small and Stephen King -- a lot of which had themes of rape, incest, and cursing scattered throughout. Guess what? It didn't scar me to read those things. My mother did not shelter me from these things, and as a result, I was a much better reader than other kids my age who were reading those dopey kids' books I'd gotten over at four years old. There are better things to be alarmed about than the use of the f-word. And I guarantee you your teenager has heard the word before, no matter WHAT school you send them to --that doesn't mean the kid will use it. I knew quite a lot of curse words by 7, and only started using them when I was around 14, every once in a blue moon, IF I thought it was necessary. Which turned out to be maybe once every few months. I knew how, when, and why.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Tabby! Sounds like you have a great mom! :D It's good to hear from all sides!


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