Should we teach children how to swear effectively?

'Swearing is part of children’s social development,' a science festival will hear

Charlotte Santry

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Children should be taught how to swear to help them to "demystify" certain words and to improve their social development, science festival attendees will hear.

“We try to keep strong language away from kids until they know how to use it effectively,” Emma Byrne, a science writer specialising in the neuroscience of swearing, is set to tell an audience at Cheltenham Science Festival next week.

According to the Sunday Times, she will say: “I strongly argue that we should revise this attitude.

“Talking honestly about why people swear helps to demystify not just the words, but also the emotions of the people around them. You’re helping them develop that all-important theory of mind. Children need to learn how swearing affects others.”

She will add: “Swearing is part of children’s social development.”

The festival is being held at Cheltenham Ladies’ College.

Ms Byrne is due to tell visitors: “Learning how to use swearing effectively, with the support of empathetic adults, is far better than trying to ban children from using such language.”

Her call for swearing to be acceptable follows research looking at why people in all cultures swear at all. It found that profanity soothes the brain and even relieves pain.

In one study, Richard Stephens, a Keele University researcher, had volunteers plunge their hands into icy water: once while swearing and once while using a neutral word. He found they could stay immersed 50 per cent longer when swearing, the Sunday Times reports.

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Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry is deputy news editor at Tes

Find me on Twitter @CharlotteSantry

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