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Kids Gone Wild

Kids Gone Wild: From Rainbow Parties to Sexting, Understanding the Hype Over Teen Sex

Joel Best
Kathleen A. Bogle
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Kids Gone Wild
    Book Description:

    To hear mainstream media sources tell it, the sex lives of modern teenagers outpace even the smuttiest of cable television shows. Teen girls sext explicit photos to boys they like; they wear sex bracelets that signify what sexual activities they have done, or will do; they team up with other girls at rainbow parties to perform sex acts on groups of willing teen boys; they form pregnancy pacts with their best girlfriends to all become teen mothers at the same time. From The Today Show, to CNN, to theNew York Times, stories of these events have been featured widely in the media. But are most teenage - or younger - children really going to sex parties and having multiple sexual encounters in an orgy-like fashion?Researchers say no - teen sex is actually not rampant and teen pregnancy is at low levels. But why do stories like these find such media traffic, exploiting parents' worst fears? How do these rumors get started, and how do they travel around the country and even across the globe?InKids Gone Wild, best-selling authors Joel Best and Kathleen A. Bogle use these stories about the fears of the growing sexualization of childhood to explore what we know about contemporary legends and how both traditional media and the internet perpetuate these rumors while, at times, debating their authenticity. Best and Bogle describe the process by which such stories spread, trace how and to where they have moved, and track how they can morph as they travel from one medium to another. Ultimately, they find that our society's view of kids raging out of control has drastic and unforeseen consequences, fueling the debate on sex education and affecting policy decisions on everything from the availability of the morning after pill to who is included on sex offender registries.A surprising look at the truth behind the sensationalism in our culture,Kids Gone Wildis a much-needed wake-up call for a society determined to believe the worst about its young people.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6065-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. 1 These Kids Today
    (pp. 1-20)

    Most of us—parents in particular—try to protect children from sexual dangers. The last two decades of the twentieth century featured intense, heavily publicized campaigns against pedophiles, child pornographers, and other bad guys who sexually menaced innocent, vulnerable young people.¹ But as the new millennium began, the focus seemed to shift. People talked less about stranger danger and more about the sexual threats young people posedto themselves. From rainbow parties to sex bracelets to sexting, kids seemed to be going wild. What, the media repeatedly asked, were average parents supposed to do to keep their children safe from...

  6. 2 How Legends Spread
    (pp. 21-44)

    Everyone realizes that concerns about social problems spread across time and space. We find ourselves devoting attention to new worries — fretting about subjects that have never before crossed our minds. Or we hear that problems that once seemed far removed — restricted to other countries or seemingly remote sectors of society — have migrated and now loom closer to home. The concerns about sex bracelets, rainbow parties, and sexting illustrate such developments. All three topics were unfamiliar when the new century began; each attracted considerable attention within just a few years. What happened? Answering this question requires examining the dynamics of spreading...

  7. 3 Parents Beware: Packaging Legends as TV News
    (pp. 45-68)

    While newspaper stories, magazine articles, local TV news broadcasts, and other media reports ran stories about rainbow parties and sex bracelets, nationally broadcast television programs probably had the greatest effect on the public’s awareness of these tales. Television reaches large audiences. On a typical day, a program on a cable news network, such as MSNBC’sScarborough Country, might have about 300,000 viewers, while the broadcast networks’ morning shows, such as NBC’sToday Show, reach as many as five million viewers. These programs feature well-known, trusted media personalities, such as Diane Sawyer, who may have been able to persuade their audiences...

  8. 4 Online Coversations about Kids and Sex
    (pp. 69-100)

    Clearly television and other media love stories about kids running wild. Recall Oprah’s guest warning that rainbow parties were “pervasive” or the headline in the UK’sSunabout the “Bracelet Which Means Your Child Is Having sex.”¹ In terms of their potential to command an audience’s attention, these were effective news stories: they were disturbing, shocking, memorable. This coverage inspired considerable online commentary among members of the larger public. However, whereas most television reports uncritically supported claims about rainbow parties and sex bracelets, the people who responded to these stories online expressed a wider range of views.

    As we have...

  9. 5 Controlling Teen Sexting
    (pp. 101-122)

    The contemporary legends about sex bracelets and rainbow parties were propelled by fear — worries about today’s kids engaging in sexual behavior too soon and being exposed to sex at ever younger ages. There is a cycle here: the media capitalizes on these fears by running sensational stories about teen sex; these stories in turn fuel the public’s fear; and this makes the topic even more attractive for media coverage. But the cycle is not restricted to the media and public opinion. The concerns people have about sex and today’s kids manifest themselves in more ways than media coverage and personal...

  10. 6 Too Sexual Too Soon: Why Believe the Hype?
    (pp. 123-144)

    Our society seems remarkably worried about young people and sex. This book has focused on the outrage over sex bracelets, rainbow parties, and sexting, but we have also alluded to other concerns — hooking up, pregnancy pacts, Gardasil, and Plan B — that flourished at the beginning of the new century. Still other claims got a bit of media attention (such as the online headline “Group Sex Is the Latest Disturbing Teen Trend’), only to fade from view.¹ Underpinning the fascination with all these topics is the fear that today’s kids are going wild, that they are sex obsessed and spiraling out...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 145-160)
    (pp. 161-174)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 175-176)
    (pp. 177-177)