Moral Panic: Sexting, Snapchat and Young’ns.

Start researching the moral panic surrounding young people and “sexting” and five hours later, you’re going to have tab upon tab upon tab of information open on your computer, a million things to say but a blank page in front of you, and the fact that three hours ago you promised to call you mum back “in ten minutes” will have long exited your brain.

Sorry Mum...
Sorry Mum…

Cohen describes a “moral panic” as “A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests; its nature is presented in a stylised and stereotypical fashion by the mass media” (Cohen, 2002). I find that two things in this definition strike out as the most interesting – something becoming a “threat to societal values” and that this threat is “stylised” by the mass media. Firstly, what are these societal values? Secondly, the mass media is where the majority of people get their information and are told what to be concerned about. So the fact that the media is exaggerating on issues is a bit worrying.


Young people are often the victims of “moral panic”. Nina Funnell sums this up perfectly in the introduction to her educational video “The Teen Sexting Panic” by saying that “through century upon century, societies have located much of their moral panic and hysteria around a victimised view of youth. Whether it’s generational or technological change, the shock of the new has often been seen as deeply threatening to the moral fabric of the vulnerable, naïve individual.” (Funnell, 2015) Youths are viewed as innocence that is being corrupted by external and preventable forces. Seriously, turn on A Current Affair on any given week and you’re almost guaranteed to hear about “THE NEW THREAT THAT IS GOING TO GET YOUR CHILDREN!!!”

“Sexting” is the act of sending sexual messages and pictures to another person through phones or the internet. Apps like “Snapchat” have made it very easy to send sexually photos and videos to people, “privately”. The media has taken “sexting” and just ran wild with it. In some ways, the moral panic surrounding sexting is totally justified. Young people are being sexual (what a shock) and the introduction of technology has opened up a range of new ways to be sexual. Young people who are not of legal age are sending and receiving naked photos of one another, and sometimes these photos are spread and it is, technically, the distribution of child pornography. New laws have come into place to counteract this technicality, for example, in Victoria a new law called the Crimes Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Bill 2014 has been passed, and under this law “if you create an intimate image, and send it to someone, it is against the law for them to intentionally send it to a third party, without your consent.” (Law Reform Committee, 2014) This new law protects minors and ensures that they are not prosecuted for the distribution of child pornography if sexting with peers.

Sexting at its finest
Sexting at its finest

This new law aside, there is a massive disconnect between the older generations and the younger generations. In the past, people didn’t need to worry about text messaging, the internet and their private conversations and file sharing being leaked. Watch the media’s representation of sexting and illicit photo sharing and it gives off the impression that the young people engaging in this are innocent and are being corrupted as well as being totally oblivious to the dangers of it all (all of this links back into the moral panic that children are being sexualised too young). But I would argue that young people are sexually experimental by nature (puberty, anyone?) and just like the generations before, are exploring this sexuality. There is just new technology so there is a new way of expressing, exploring and learning about it. I agree that the moral panic surrounding sexting isn’t completely misguided and there does need to be education surrounding the potential dangers, I equally agree that the media has as the media does, and it has sensationalised it and exaggerated the panic. Times are a’changin’.

– Kassi Klower


Cohen, S., 2002. Folk Devils and Moral Panics. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge.

Funnell, N., 2015. Wheeler Centre. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 16 April 2015].

Hasinhof, A, A., June 2013. Sexting as media production: Rethinking social media and sexuality. New Media & Society , Volume 15, pp. 449-465.

Law Reform Committee (2013) Inquiry into Sexting, Victorian Parliament, Parliamentary Paper No. 230

Marker, B. S., 2011. Sexting as Moral Panic: An Exploratory Study into the Media’s Construction of Sexting. Paper 12 ed. Online Theses and Dissertations: s.n.

11 thoughts on “Moral Panic: Sexting, Snapchat and Young’ns.

  1. With the rapid growth of what media and technology can do today, it does affect the minds and the thinking of young people today. True that puberty takes a toll on everyone but the accessibility and convenience of the media applications is also a factor to why ‘sexting’ has been made easier. That is why this is a moral panic among the society nowadays.


  2. Firstly I want to say that I enjoyed this post, it’s humorous and would easily appeal to a number of audiences because of that. The images in the post add to the humour and make the post light hearted. Having the post light hearted takes the edge of a controversial topic that could hit a few nerves with some people. The images also break up the text making the post easy to read and follow.
    Adding hyperlinks to your post would have added to your arguments even further and given more information to readers. As you said “five hours later, you’re going to have tab upon tab upon tab of information open on your computer”. I think with a topic such as this readers definitely could use more background information from different outside sources and having those hyperlinks would have made it easy to access that information. Maybe consider making them where you’ve quoted or referenced people.
    The references to A Current Affair and Snapchat I particularly thought were a good idea and made this post more relatable.
    In the end a job well done.


  3. Very well written post, it communicated the message brilliantly. I liked how you integrated the legal side of the issue alongside with the media’s influence. I definitely agree with the fact that if you’re going to expose kids to media platforms such as snapchat and hand them a phone, obviously they are going to become curious and try spice up there usual conversation with the opposite sex. Yes, snapchat may be a factor but it’s their decision. I absolutely love your comment “young people are sexually experimental by nature “, it perfectly conveys the message without even having to elaborate. Also, your choice of memes are humorous, it’s playful and I enjoyed reading this blog, not only did it make me question that it isn’t always the media’s fault, it is human nature to be a sexual being, although it does depend on the age.


  4. Interesting post. I think things like snap chat and ‘sexting’ are interesting topics of discussion, especially with regard to young people. I think your post is really well written but you probably could have gone into a bit more detail. I think the post could have been slightly more effective if there was more information regarding the effects of texting private photo’s among young people and how this causes concerns for their privacy.
    I think another concern is that people could gain access to personal photo’s, especially if they’re stored online in a ‘cloud’ type database.
    Overall a great post though.


  5. I found your post very interesting and easy to read! Your explanation in the beginning of a “moral panic”, as described by Cohen, not only served as a great refresher for BCM students, but also allowed non-BCM students to equally engage in the blog post. Your question, “Firstly, what are these societal values?” in relation to the emerging “threat” made me reflect on our current society and how we as a whole define a “moral panic”. Or as how you further mused, how we allow the media to define it.

    Your references to A Current Affair and Snapchat, both well-known in their respective areas, was a great addition to engage with us as the readers. I agree with how you said “Apps like “Snapchat” have made it very easy to send sexually photos and videos to people”. I find many people blame Snapchat for “sexting”, but realistically teenagers are going to be sending these picures and videos regardless, Snapchat is just making it much easier for them.

    Your post was particularly enjoyable as you have clearly done extra research and readings, showing your interest in the topic. Your use of images are not only relevant, but also allow a break between all the text, which I appreciated. While the post was easy to read, some of the paragraph’s were a little long and forced me to skim read the first time.

    I really enjoyed it!


  6. I like the overall approach you have taken in writing this blog post. A clear and concise post that ultimately and effectively expresses the sexualisation of young children, specifically regarding sexting. Rather than exposing a potentially biased “for” or “against” opinion, you have stated the phenomena of sexting itself, the way in which it has been portrayed in our society to have then lead to a “Moral Panic” and have also given an insight as to how the issue can be managed.
    You have brought clarity and authenticity by including the opinions of known academics, contrasted to the opinions of those in the media that may hold more influence over people; e.g. A Current Affair. The inclusion of “memes” had also made for a more pleasurable reading experience. Your post has allowed me to consider a different perspective on the matter of sexting. As adolescents sexual curiosity is an inevitable occurrence, and with our demographic being the heaviest users of social media has allowed for sexual curiosity to be taken to a whole new level. I definitely agree with the idea you have made to have this issue be addressed and to warn children and adolescents of the risks associated. As our society advances technologically, children gain more freedom. Without proper knowledge and awareness of particular issues including sexting could be to their detriment.


  7. The idea of sexting that you greatly discussed was a unique standpoint in the broad topic of the sexualisation of young children. Although I agree that the media over-exaggerates the issue of sexting, and I can understand your point of sexting being a new way to be sexually experimental, it also heavily provokes negative connotations- images being screen shotted, saved and shared to those who do not have permission by the sender to hold those images. Henceforth, creating a moral panic.
    All in all you raise a controversial yet interesting topic that makes your audience think about media exaggeration and how young people are sexually experimenting.


  8. Your post clearly stresses the concept of moral panic within the media and society, and also addressing in relation to privacy and consent. It is evident through the use of references and personal research that you have gained a greater and broader spectrum on a topic that seems to have an effect on, in particular adolescence. You state the use of the social application snapchat, and in certain notions, its encouragement and convenience of “private” sexting. From the research into the laws, its seen through your post, the release of new laws due to new technicality’s within the media. Your post has left myself intrigued into the disconnection of generations and their definition of “sexting”. I strongly agree with you about the education of sexting, and to allow adolescence in particular, gain an understanding of the repercussions of participating in such activities. Overall, I believe you have addressed the topic in a mature manner, and through your use of images and hyperlinks have achieved a successful post, great work!


  9. Well written and comprehensive post. The examples you’ve provided are diverse and explain the ‘moral panic’ concept well, but I think the example you included by Nina Funnell could also be interpreted as moral panic being concern throughout society towards the effects of an emerging technology or a group of people on a particular demographic, i.e. children, rather than children being ‘victims’ of this moral panic. I believe this moral panic, or hysteria as Funnell puts it, is justified to a point when thinking about the effects of sexting or for example cyber-bullying (as well as other issues causing moral panic, like social media), because as a society we want the best circumstances for children while they’re growing up, and as adults they will have to deal with similar issues themselves. As far as moral panic being exaggerated goes, the media will always sensationalise issues when it can as this is, as Tony Rogers argues, is unavoidable in news and can serve to promote a wider distribution of stories and of course, sell more newspapers or attract more viewers.


  10. Your post highlights the intense, and overall coverage the media and, the law, takes part in ‘stimulating’ moral panic amongst society. You’ve dissected Cohen’s description of ‘moral panic’ and picked out the two key points which outline the way in which the Mass Media can over state or provoke antagonising debate amongst the public. You reference academics, Nina Funnell and Stanley Cohen to provide evidence, and then compare their opinions to contemporary examples like ‘A Current Affair’. Maybe, more depth into the academics opinions would be more analytical.
    In the end paragraph, I like how you have used a legal case to emphasize the impact ‘sexting’ has had on society. The use of Hyperlinks to the details of the Sexual offences Act would have been useful for further reading. You’ve pointed out that while it is not a new phenomenon, (that young people are engaging in sexual activity, but the fact that it is easier for the material used in sexting to be accessed by third parties who could have malicious intentions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s