20 March 2008

High Tech or High Risk: Moral Panics about Girls Online

(MIT Journals)
by Justine Cassell, ­ Meg Cramer. We argue that the current moral outrage and national panic over the risks of victimization faced by girls on the Internet has nothing to do with risks faced by girls on the Internet. Based on historical, cross-cultural, and discourse analyses, we draw four conclusions. Each and every time a new communication technology is introduced, it spurs very public fears on the part of parents and educators, putatively about the effects of that technology on girls' (sexual) innocence. The statistics show that predatory behavior on adolescent girls has a certain profile that has either not changed over the decade since the Internet became popular, or has improved over time. The Internet dangerously unfetters girls' spaces and risks changing our image of what girls can do, and where they can go. This challenges the social order. Girls' masterful use of the Internet also challenges the view that technology is dangerous and an inappropriate interest for girls, and in this sense the moral panic around girls online is a way of policing the relationship between girls and technology.