Too sexy too soon, or just another moral panic? Sexualization, children, and “technopanics” in the Australian media 2004–2015

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In this paper, I analyze the discourse of what I argue are two moral panics that played out in the Australian media during the period 2004–2015: the sexualization of children debate, and the sexting panic, which appeared some years later. I argue that while the issue of the alleged sexualization of children is nothing new, the way that the issue has been constructed in the media has shifted during the last decade, with greater focus on children’s use of technology. By comparing these two panics, we can diagnose a shift in the nature of mass-media-based panics, from concerns about external sources of sexualization to concerns about children’s own practices of self-representation via contemporary technologies. Both panics mobilized a range of broader social anxieties about the commodification and sexualization of culture and the increasing agency of children, and panics in relation to contemporary mobile technologies are a collective response to shifts in the power relations between children, their parents, and other figures of authority.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-380
Number of pages15
JournalFeminist Media Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2018


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