Crime & Media Week 7.docx

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General Education Studies
Danielle Tyson

Media constructions of children: Tragic victims or evil monsters KEY TERMS Adultification. Tendency to see children and young people as possessing similar capacities of reasoning and knowledge as adults. Dangerousness. Sums up widespread fear of individuals and groups who appear to pose a significant threat to order or to individuals’ personal safety. Doli incapax. Principle that children under a certain age are incapable of understanding the difference between right and wrong, and therefore cannot be held criminally responsible for their actions. Evil monsters. Postmodern version of folk devils whereby media, politicians and legal discourses intersect to construct serious offenders in essentialist terms as absolute others and beyond the normal values that bind the moral majority together. Imagined community. Suggests collective identity based on, and encompassing attitudes to, class, gender, lifestyle and nation. Infantilisation. Social, political and economic forces resulting in many young people having to delay the ‘rites of passage that have traditionally marked the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Social constructionism. Perspective that emphasises the importance of social expectations un the analysis of taken-for-granted and apparently natural social processes. Avoids the conventional binary opposition of representation/reality by suggesting that meaning is conferred according to shared cultural references and experiences. Tragic victims. Frequently used in binary opposition to evil monsters, whereby the innocence and vulnerability of a victim becomes the primary aspect of their representation in the media. News values and children as tragic victims  Crimes stories featuring children are eminently newsworthy. o Children killed by a stranger get more coverage than children killed by a familiar person.  Whether children at the centre of the story are victims or offenders.  Media’s concentration on children linked to media’s commitment to morality campaigns. o Morality campaigns – focus is not against homosexuals and religious deviations anymore, but against the figure of a stranger/paedophile. o No longer about porn and human sex trafficking, but on child pornography and child sex trafficking.  Sexual abuse in the home still stays relatively low on the journalistic radar in comparison to stranger danger. o When children commit serious crimes or kill other children, they’re crimes are also eminently newsworthy.  Example – James Bulger: o First case where media depicted children not as innocent, but as evil. o First time you saw a focus on dangerousness. o Was followed by a raft of CJ and crime prevention initiatives to deal with this problem – the potential for children to commit such heinous acts. o Presented an almost unprecedented dilemma for the mass media. o The idea child innocence gives way to the idea of children/childhoods as horrific and evil. Media disproportionately report crime stories involving children killed by strangers  Example of how our fears tend to get projected onto particular issues as a result of this kind of media focus.  Media exercise a preference for crime stories involving children killed by strangers (rather than the familial context).  Is a consequence of media’s obsession with randomness of crime and tendency to locate dangerousness in the public realm.  Dominant theme in British press is ‘paedophiles in the community’.  High profile cases often followed by enactment of various pieces of legislation.  Moral panic over paedophilia perpetuates notion that sexual dangerousness resides in strangers.  Public fears aren’t manufactured and yet governments benefit from the invocation of evil to justify a particular policy or legal response. The concept of childhood is a construction th  Prior to mid-19 century, children were seen as equally culpable adults when they committed crime and liable therefore the same penalties.  In Victorian society, a new conception of childhood as a separate stage of development prior to adulthood emerged. o Wasn’t always a concept of teenage hood.  First time in modern history, children seen as in need of protection through legislation. o Couldn’t be treated the same because they weren’t thought to have a sense of right and wrong. o Laws and legislation came out e.g. working, pay, etc., to protect children. Constructions of ch
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