Watch your mouth
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SOME THINK it is cool. Others find it totally offensive, and it appears most of us can no longer escape from it. Foul language, or swearing, is so prevalent among young people it has become a culture of its own.
Thanks to indie pop bad boys such as Eminem in the United States and local band LMF - whose songs are peppered with swear words - what is considered by teachers and parents as vulgar is now regarded by youth as hip and trendy.
Even university students are known to deliberately mis-pronounce proper words to give them a foul twist.
'I guess most teenagers, especially boys, swear from time to time. When I was young, I was no exception,'' said Lam Hung-fei, the chairman of the Parent-Teacher Association of a secondary school in Sha Tin and father of two boys.
'I believe students swear mainly because they want to gain the recognition of their friends by doing or saying something outrageous. For adults, family and career are the important things. However, for teenagers, it is recognition and self-image that matter,' he explained.
According to Mr Lam, novelty plays a part too.
Teenagers are often intrigued by something unusual, something they were not allowed to do, like using foul language. For some, swearing is also a symbol of maturity.
'I think for many young people, it is just a phase. Most of them will stop doing it after the novelty has worn off,' Mr Lam said.
He also pointed out that some local cult bands and figures like LMF and former Beyond guitarist Paul Wong Kwun-chung, who incorporate swear words into their lyrics, strike a chord among young people and help fuel the use of foul language.
'Still, it is important that parents set a good example for their children,' Mr Lam said.
And how should teachers respond when their students are swearing a lot, or worse, swearing at them?
This is a topic that would-be teachers have to study at the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd). A module in classroom management titled 'Promoting Positive Human Relationships in School' is included in the course of study to discuss how to deal with students who have an attitude problem.
'A person's use of language often reflects his state of mind,' said HKIEd lecturer Dorcas Wong Sau-ha. 'Students who are cynical or frustrated may use foul language, often in a way that annoys people, to express their grievances.
'Therefore, as teachers, we should listen and find out what their problems are.'