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.

Time-Magazine-Techno-Panic-Covers1

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

References

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

Funnell, N., 2015. Wheeler Centre. [Online]
Available at: http://apo.org.au/node/27267
[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.

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What You See Isn’t Always What You Get

Because of our personal cultures, understandings, knowledge and beliefs, the way that we interpret signs, words, messages and images differs from person to person. These misinterpretations can cause problems. Throughout history, artists have provoked controversy through their creative works because of misinterpretations or misunderstood messages.

I have chosen to examine Erik Ravelo’s shock photograph series “Los Intocable” (The Untouchables). The series of photographs were highly controversial when first released in late 2013 because they depict children hung on crosses, similar to crucifixion, to represent some of the controversial issues affecting children all over the world and voice the loss of innocence that is being forced upon these children. These issues are childhood obesity, gun violence in schools, child sex tourism, black market trafficking of children’s organs, paedophilia in the church and war in countries, like Syria.

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Photographs sourced from http://goo.gl/0l8foT

For the remainder of this post I will be talking in detail about the photograph that represents child sex tourism and prostitution.

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When you look at the signifiers in the photo, you see a man in a hawaiian shirt and bright hat, with a camera hanging off his wrist, and a young girl who has her face blurred, positioned as if hanging on a cross against his back. To figure out the signified, the viewer needs to have some understanding of certain things. For example, you need to recognise that the child is in a position that resembles that of being crucified. This notion of crucifiction has a number of connotations attached, mainly, Jesus being nailed to a cross to atone for everyone’s sins.The cross is now used as a symbol for sin (amongst other things). You need to recognise that the Hawaiian shirt and camera that belong to the man represent the stereotype of tourists.

When you look at the photo with these connotations in mind, the meaning of the photograph develops to a deeper level. The little girl is representing young children in countries like Thailand that have a rampant child sex industry, that is mainly used by tourists to the country. The man is representing one of these patrons that engages in the activity, and is the embodiment of the evil that this child faces. The face of the girl (and of all the children in the photograph series) is blurred to obscure her identity, and she is showing the act of child prostitution as a cross (injustice, burden, threat,experience) she has to carry.

The photographs are considered to be controversial because people have misconstrued the images as “pornographic” and of a dark nature because some of the children are only in underwear and some of the issues being explored in the works involve sex with children (the priest and the tourism photo in particular). This reading of the photos is not what the artist was aiming for, showing that the photos can be seen in a way that was not intended. He was hoping to show a visual representation of the injustices that children around the world face, but should not have too.

“I still don’t understand why some people are mad at me, but they’re not mad about those problems. Some people get offended by the photos but not by the problems the photos wants to talk about.” – Erik Ravelo

 

– Kassi

Don’t Try This at Home.

You always hear the tale of a small child who broke their leg jumping off the garage roof because they were trying to be Batman. Where this story originated from, why everyone knows of it and why it keeps popping up in casual media debates is unknown, but these things happen.   There has been anxieties about the effect that media has on people (usually focusing primarily on  children, adolescents, the uneducated or the working class) for years, especially in relation to television, video games, films, magazines and now, the internet. This media has consistently been used as a scapegoat and justification for violent actions.

brainstorm-blame-workplace-ecard-someecards

The concept of the media being blamed for negative parts of society is called the “Media Effects Model”. To get an understanding of how prevalent this way of thinking is and how long it has been around, academics have been doing studies to determine whether or not media does have an adverse effect on society for a number of years, and there has been no real yes or no outcome to this question. Famously, the psychologist Alfred Bandura conducted his Bobo Doll experiment where he reached the conclusion that yes watching violence encourages violence, but psychologist Christopher Ferguson did two studies, one on violent movies and homicide rates and one on videogames, and found that there was no correlation between the consumption of violent media, and real life violence.

I'd hit this thing too, it's terrifying.
I’d hit this thing too, it’s terrifying.

Everything from books and magazines to movies and videogames are put under the metaphorical magnifying glass of the media effects model. The novel “The Catcher in the Rye” has been associated with the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan and the shooting of John Lennon. In 1999, two students at Columbine High School killed 13 people and injured 24 when they entered their school and opened fire before killing themselves. In the aftermath, speculation began on what led these two young men to plan out an elaborate school massacre. Video games, the film Natural Born Killers and music artist Marilyn Manson were all blamed for promoting violence and being behind the perpetrators motivations. Target recently stopped selling the video game Grand Theft Auto V because of the games content and apparent violence against women. Magazines are constantly being blamed for encouraging anorexia.

How to get a bikini body: Step one - Have a body Step two - Wear a bikini
How to get a bikini body: Step one – Have a body Step two – Wear a bikini

Blaming the media for negative things that happen is easy. What is less easy is to analyse the situation by looking at the bigger picture. For example, yes it is true that the two boys who orchestrated the Columbine Massacre played first-person shooter video games and listened to Marilyn Manson, but it is equally true that they were both bullied, one was considered to have psychopathy and the other had serious clinical depression. The video game they played involved shooting people, but tens of thousands of people played this game and there was not tens of thousands of mass shootings from these players. There is no simple causation effect. People are not inherently violent because they play video games, watch graphic films or listen to angry music, there are other issues that contribute, and usually contribute more-so.

My personal opinion is that the media effects model is deep and complicated. It is not justifiable to blame ONLY the media for negative things that exist in our society. Yes, I get angry when I die in a video game for the hundredth time, but that has more to do with frustration at failing than it does with the videogames violent or not violent content. It isn’t black and white, or even shades of grey. It is a far more complicated issue that needs to continue to be studied.

– Kassi

 

References:

Ferguson, C. J. (2014) Does Media Violence Predict Societal Violence? It Depends on What You Look at and When. Journal of Communication, 65:1. E1-E22.

Gutierrez, J. P. (2014) No link found between movie, video game violence and societal violence. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-11/ica-nlf102814.php Accessed 19/04/2015

McLeod, S. A. (2011). Bobo Doll Experiment.http://www.simplypsychology.org/bobo-doll.html Accessed 19/04/2015

Turnbull, S. (2015) Media Mythbusting 1: Television Makes you Fat. Lecture. 10/03/15.

 

Beginnings

This is it.

My first blog post in my first year of my first degree.

I am coming into this degree after completing Year 12 in 2011, having two years off working and dabbling in a few different areas, trying to find my footing and figure out what I want to do “for the rest of my life”. After trying this and hating that, I decided to move to Newcastle, which wasn’t the right fit for me. In 2015 I was accepted into the University of Wollongong – Bachelor of Journalism/Bachelor of Communications and Media so I can follow my passion of writing to hopefully end up in a career I love. That’s the plan, anyway. More about me here.

As part of my Journalism/Communications and Media degree, I have to write this blog, which is actually not as scary as it would have been had someone told me this six months ago. I’m actually one step ahead (thank goodness) on this front, as I have already co-created a blog as a sort of online portfolio of my work and how I am growing as a writer. We haven’t launched the blog yet, but we have a number of articles written and lined up to be posted during our launch week. The blog I have co-created has been in the works for around two months now, from its humble beginnings of drunken “we should start a blog together” ramblings, to staying up late and night on Skype ironing out the nitty-gritty aspects of it, to it almost being ready to be revealed and read by others.

I’m excited to be starting my degree. When people say to me “What do you want to do after you finish University?” I get a bit carried away. I want to write novels, and I want to write about what I see and experience. I want to be a journalist and report on the world and how its changing. I want to write radio shows. I want to have an awesome podcast series that takes off. I want to write for trendy magazines. I want to write about people, who they are and where they come from. I want to write. I know that this is what I want to do, it is what I have always wanted to do. And I will do it. Hopefully.

This blog will be the one that I use for my subjects.

I feel really good about this. I am confident. I am ready.