Mad about the Boy



How to Cite

Mayrhofer, D. (2008). Mad about the Boy. M/C Journal, 11(2).
Vol. 11 No. 2 (2008): equal
Published 2008-06-01

The media coverage of an out-of-control teenage party in the Melbourne suburb of Narre Warren on 12 January 2008, and its construction of the protagonist who threw the party, has highlighted once again the inequitable treatment of youth, particularly adolescent males, in the Australian media. This paper examines the coverage in terms of the discursive strategies used by the mainstream Australian media to legitimise and naturalise the denigration and humiliation of the boy involved. It will discuss the ongoing demonisation of young males in general, and the concomitant ‘panics’ about their degeneration into moral lassitude, as well as the particular ethical and legal issues raised by the non-compliance with the industry code of ethics displayed in the news reporting of the Boy’s activities.

The Incident

One Saturday in January 2008, the Boy decided to have a get together in his suburban Melbourne home while his parents were away, however as news of the event spread via the internet and SMS, the crowd swelled to apparently 500 people, many of whom were gate crashers from a nearby party which had been closed down. After neighbours complained about the noise, police arrived and clashed with the party goers, some of whom threw bottles, broke a letter box and damaged cars. Police later threatened to charge the Boy and his family for the AUD$20,000 clean-up bill (The 7.30 Report, “Teen Faces $20,000 Bill”).

On 14 January, journalist Leila McKinnon presented a report on the Nine Network’s A Current Affair which was the first in a series of reports demonising adolescent males in general and the Boy in particular. As discussed in more detail below, the construction of the Boy as ‘bad’ was blatant and the interviewer skilfully goaded him and ignored any comments that indicated maturity, contrition or other socially acceptable reactions, countering with condescension until she provoked the ‘desired’ response which would support the stereotype of the rebellious adolescent male. The public humiliation of the Boy instigated by A Current Affair continued for several weeks and at the time of writing the Boy was still being used as an example of the strange and unpredictable ways of children: “The aggressive, moody, whiny, excessive behaviour that drives the parents of teenagers wild is all part of the lopsided way the adolescent brain matures. That’s especially true for boys, as Melbourne teenager [the Boy] demonstrated when he hosted a wild party …” (Dayton 3). This was despite the fact that these character traits hardly seem to fit [the Boy] who was described by his parents, even at their most outraged, as “independent, socially active” with, “a lot of friends” (A Current Affair, 14 Jan. 2008) and as someone who was, “loving, kind and a fun boy who always has time for his family” (Jo and Steve Delaney).

The clear ideological inflection of the McKinnon interview, and other media coverage, suggested that the positioning of the adolescent male in this discourse warranted further examination. Television news and current affair coverage of the incident between January 14 and January 20 was analysed, producing a sample of 13 stories on the topic of the Boy. Print media articles were retrieved using the Dow Jones Factiva search, which produced 1341 stories.

The stories were coded and analysed using methodology commonly used in Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) (for example by Fowler et al.; Fowler; Van Dijk, News; Racism; “Principles”; “New(s)”; and Fairclough, Media; Language; and “Dialectics”). This paper draws on the first stage of the analysis which described a broad characterisation of the newspaper discourse surrounding the Boy’s party. The microstructural analysis of the coverage is a longer term project and still in progress.

All the News That’s Fit to Print

One of the prevailing aspects of the media coverage of this incident was the ubiquitous abandoning of the ideals of objectivity and ethical reporting. The Boy was presented as media savvy and uncaring about public opinion, but this should not influence the application of the journalists’ code of ethics. For example, rule 2: “ do not place unnecessary emphasis on personal characteristics, including … gender, age … family relationships” or rule 8: “never exploit a person’s vulnerability” or rule 11 “respect … personal privacy”? (MEAA). Nor should it be considered a waiver of the United National Convention on the Rights of the Child, for example article 3 which states “the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration”; or article 16 “no child shall be subjected to … unlawful attacks on his or her honour or reputation”; or article 40 “the right of every child alleged as, accused of, or recognised as having infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth” (United Nations). Yet the Boy was denied rights for fair representation by the media.

About a Boy

The sixteen year old who threw the party has been charged as a result of events that night and so is not named here, although the blanket media coverage has meant that it is unlikely that anyone reading this paper does not know his name. None the less, he is a child; a boy; an adolescent; a minor; but what does this really mean?

The term ‘Boy’, like other gender identifiers, is a contested, social construction; a malleable liminal state in which the young male is neither fully a child nor an adult; and this uncertainty feeds the cultural anxiety that permeates public displays of pubescence. Age is certainly one of the major cultural markers that western societies use to distinguish between an adult and a child, however it is applied arbitrarily. For example, in Australia, childhood appears to be defined by the activity in question. Children can legally have sex – which some might consider an adult activity – at the age of sixteen yet they can’t marry without permission; vote; own land; hold a driving or gun licence or buy cigarettes or alcohol until they are 18.

Forty years ago, Philippe Aries stimulated a debate, which continues, about the concept of childhood through time, claiming that the current conception of children as a discrete group, separate from other humans in various ways is a characteristic of western industrialised society (Aries). For example adolescence is generally considered as a biological marker, rather than a cultural construct, in the process of human development, yet the concept as generally understood and applied in discussions about young people did not exist before the last two decades of the nineteenth century (Demos and Demos 632).

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is quite clear, in Article 1, that, “a child means every human being below the age of 18 years” (UNCROC). Not withstanding the fact that the concept of child is contested, and socially constructed, children in general are a contradiction in 21st century western society. On one hand, society pays lip service to their importance as, ‘our future,’ and our most important asset, yet on the other they are perceived as problems to be solved by regulation.

As Angela Shanahan wrote in her column for The Australian:

What is to be done with the [Boy]s of this world? On one hand we know they are silly children whose parents should take more control. But, on the other hand, as anyone who has had a child go off the rails knows, the ability of parents to discipline adolescents is severely limited and often thwarted by the medical and educational establishments and by the various agencies of the social welfare bureaucracy. In fact, there is a growing institutional bias against parental authority. (26 Jan. 2008)

In just one paragraph Shanahan manages to denigrate the Boy as a “silly child”; blame parents for not being more authoritarian; and invoke the need to ignore those children’s rights which are protected by bureaucracies. Even the choice of the word “bureaucracies” instead of organisations connotes incompetence. The discourses of regulation and rationality run through this column, whose header reads, “Science says teens don’t have the brains to cope”, thus invoking the authority of science to support her call for greater oppression of youth.

Her strategy is to cite experts who can prove that the teenage brain is unformed and inferior to the normal, that is, adult, brain. Richard Kerbaj, also writing in The Australian, employs a similar discursive strategy, using “experts” who call on parents to, “take a more hardline approach” and suggest punishments for the Boy because otherwise, “we’ll have copycat parties throughout the place”. Kerbaj has no doubt about what young people want when he describes “every teenager’s dream: throw a party when the parents are out of the house, make international headlines and watch mum and dad get blamed for it” (Kerbaj). This level of premeditation and malice wasn’t present in the Boy’s answer, during a grilling on A Current Affair (14 Jan. 2008), to the question, “why did you do it?”

BOY: Um I don’t know. It was just a get together with a couple of mates at first and then we thought we might as well just have a bit of a party and then it just sort of got out of hand …

The interviewer doesn’t appear interested in any retrospection or acknowledgment of being unable to deal with the situation on the Boy’s part, but seems intent on proving that the Boy is irresponsible and unremorseful. Failure to show “appropriate” emotions during public media appearances have dire consequences. For example the demonisation, and subsequent imprisonment, of Lindy Chamberlain almost 30 years ago seemed to be at least partly the result of her inability to display the ‘right’ response, and her refusal to break down on camera was seen as evidence that she was capable of murdering her own child. More recently, British tourist Joanne Lees was positioned as suspect rather than victim after she appeared ‘cool’ in media interviews following the murder of her boyfriend Peter Falconio.

Party Boy Unrepentant

Fowler et al. describe the strategy of “over-lexicalisation” which encodes ideology in news discourse by the repetition of similar terms woven into the fabric of the news stories to describe participants. Teo, who gives the example of youth and race as two lexical items often used in this way, describes the practice as having “a perjorative effect as it signals a kind of deviation from social convention or expectation and reflects perceptions and judgements from the essentially biased standpoint of such cultural norms or social expectations” (21). The Boy was consistently described in news reports in both the print and electronic media as “party boy”, thus identifying him in opposition to socially accepted characteristics of a ‘good’ boy. Likewise, the Boy’s lack of contrition is mentioned repeatedly in media reports. In The 7.30 Report on the ABC (14 Jan. 2008), Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon said, “[he] didn’t seem like he was repentant either” and about a minute later the host reiterated “contrition was certainly thin on the ground”. In A Current Affair’s second report (15 Jan. 2008), journalist Nick Etchells introduces his piece with the words, “you might think with the passage of time he’d show some remorse.” In The Daily Telegraph (16 Jan. 2008) journalist Byron Kaye noted, the “young, bleach-haired host” of the party – also referred to as “the poster boy for teenage stupidity,” was still, “unrepentant”.

In the A Current Affair interview (14 Jan. 2008), the Boy is effectively badgered out of showing any contrition through a combination of condescension and authoritarian reprimand from the show’s host:

McKINNON: what are you going to say? [to his parents]
BOY: Um … sorry.
McKINNON: Are you sorry?
BOY: Ah yeah, yeah I am.
McKINNON: You don’t sound very sorry.
BOY: Well I can’t exactly be blamed for everything that happened cos it wasn’t in the house, it was out in the street and I didn’t do it, like, and the police said “you stay inside so you don’t get in trouble” and I did what he said … so …
McKINNON: Why don’t you take this opportunity now to apologise to your parents and to your neighbours who have said today that they were frightened.
BOY: Well, I’ve already offered, like, to say sorry to them and stuff when I see them so I will say sorry now for everything what happened and …
McKINNON: Why don’t you take your glasses off now so we can see you and then apologise to your neighbours for frightening them?
BOY: No, I’ll leave these on … I like them.
McKINNON: They might be fined $20 000. Are you going to try to pay that for them?
BOY: Yeah but I don’t think it’s fair they’ll be fined it cos what happened, it was my party, but it could just be any random person walking in the street doing it; what happens all the time.
McKINNON: Well, your parents were out of town, you put out the invitation, you started it, why don’t you make a grown up decision now and accept responsibility, take off those glasses and apologise to everybody you frightened, to the police who were forced to retreat and whose cars have been damaged and to the community who have had to pay for this. Take off your glasses and apologise to us.
BOY: I’ll say sorry but I’m not taking off my glasses.
McKINNON: Why not?
BOY: Because they’re famous.
McKINNON: Because your glasses are famous?
BOY: Yeah.
McKINNON: Why are your glasses famous?
BOY: I reckon everyone likes them … so …
McKINNON: You’re pretty happy with the way you look and the attitude you’ve got are you?
BOY: Yeah, I am.
McKINNON: Well we’ve got to wrap this up so [Boy] what would you say to other kids who were thinking of partying when their parents were out of town?
BOY: Get me to do it for you?
McKINNON: Get you to do it for you, not don’t do it?
BOY: Nah, get me to do it for you, best party ever so far. That’s what everyone’s been saying. So.
McKINNON: Well we’ve got to go so I suggest you go away and take a good long look at yourself.
BOY: I have, everyone has, they love it.

The Boy apologises, or offers to apologise, four times in the course of this short interview, but each time it is rejected by the host either because he doesn’t “sound” like he means it, that is, he doesn’t conform to a pre-conceived idea of how this apology should be presented, or because he won’t take off his glasses (an additional component of the apology which is thrown in to raise the chances of him not complying, after he has already agreed to the first set of terms).

McKinnon attempts to emphasise the child/adult dichotomy through both her nonverbal and verbal communication, using a reprimanding tone as she demands that he make a, “grown up decision”. She emphasises his, and every adolescent’s, role as an outsider and a menace and demands he apologise, “to us,” and also tells him to apologise to everybody, “you” frightened, even though there is no evidence that he actually frightened anyone. Quite the contrary – in The 7.30 Report interview he says he was in communication with the neighbours and had informed them of the party:

[BOY]: No, we warned them, we warned them. We said the party would be finished at like 12. They’re like sweet, sweet, sweet but then they called the cops anyway. So, we were like, oh damn.

Not exactly the words of a rampaging villain. The Boy may not conform to the establishment’s idea of a model child, but he presents a rational and reasoned argument, pointing out that he stayed in the house as instructed by police – hardly the actions of an out of control teen; demonstrating he is concerned his parents will be financially punished for the costs; and arguing that even though it was his party he is not liable or responsible for the actions of people outside his premises – a point supported by lawyers commenting on the case (The Australian).

When McKinnon finds that the Boy keeps apologising, albeit not in the right way, she is forced to find a new strategy to goad him into defiance and attempts to attack his self-esteem with the question; “You’re pretty happy with the way you look and the attitude you’ve got are you?”, suggesting that he shouldn’t be. The Boy holds his ground, so finally the interviewer admonishes him with “I suggest you go away and take a good long look at yourself”, thus giving up any pretence at “reporting” and settling into the role of moral guardian for the community. The Boy still refuses to submit, firing back, “I have, everyone has, they love it.” His attitude won him support among his generation, mainly expressed on his Facebook and MySpace pages, and condemnation from the establishment, which picked up and reproduced the labels attached to the Boy by A Current Affair, for example he was referred to as “an irresponsible and arrogant brat”, “teen brat”, “teenage party pest” and “brat from the burbs” (Mulvey, Jan. 24. 2008; Rolfe, 27 Jan. 2008; Connolly, 17 Jan. 2008).

Part of the Boy’s character assassination involved the use of his surname. In the early reporting he was consistently referred to by one surname, with the aside “he also goes by the name … “ added as one might when describing criminals with colourful monikers. The fact that the media were referring to the Boy by his stepfather’s surname, while he insisted on being called by his birth name, was positioned as an aspect of his untrustworthiness. The attacks on the Boy’s dignity continued when created a poll entitled “What should [the Boy]’s punishment be?” and asks readers to choose between a variety of punishments, including “forced application of Clearasil” and “smash his yellow sunnies” (Poll Popup). There was also a site where readers were invited to “slap [the Boy]” (Slap…). In a non-bylined article, a writer for The Age claims that:

in the old days, a young tearaway like [the Boy] would have been put in the stocks and had rotten tomatoes and worse thrown at him. Just to settle him down. In fact, as of yesterday afternoon, 417,264 people had done something similar, by logging on to slap[the Boy].com and giving the pimply party boy from Narre Warren a virtual slap in the chops.

The article then goes on to cite “social researcher” David Chalke, “of AustraliaScan, probably the country’s most sophisticated cultural monitor,” who says the story resonated with the Australian public and, “shows a genuine enthusiasm for the restoration of the stocks” because of, “seething frustrations and fears that society at large and parents in particular are harbouring in regards to the I-generation of teenagers,” represented by the “gormless” Boy (The Age 20 Jan. 2008).

His yellow sunglasses continued to rile the media and during an interview with Melbourne radio station Fox FM DJ, Matt Tilley, who tried to get the Boy to remove his glasses. When the Boy refused, the adult Tilley jumped on the Boy, effectively assaulting him and wrestling him out of his chair. His attempt to forcibly remove the glasses failed and the Boy fled the studio – an act that was presented as a tantrum or childish behaviour on the part of the Boy as the hosts exclaimed, “he’s gone, he’s done a runner!” (FOX FM interview). If this incident had involved a young girl it is unlikely that the assault would have been condoned.

Kids These Days

It must be confessed that an irreverent, unruly spirit has come to be a prevalent, an outrageous evil among the young people of our land. (Burton 38)

So why were the media so affronted by this party-loving adolescent? The threshold from child to adult is redolent with turbulent emotions and young people generally want to break free from their parents before parents want to free them. Youths are liminal beings, inhabiting the strange space between childhood and adulthood and we are made uneasy by those who don’t occupy normal ordered cultural states. Nature might hate a vacuum, but not as much as culture hates ambiguity. As John Hartley says:

Youth is a scandalous category because it offends against binary logic. Binary systems are two-term universes and binary logic requires the two terms to be not just equivalent but-opposite, but also mutually exclusive … all that’s necessary is to list some of the most general, naturalized and commonsense attributes that separate child (as a category) from adult, and to notice how completely youth transgresses them all.

He gives the binary oppositions of: child/adult; family of origin/family of destination; asexual/gendered sexuality; irresponsible/responsible; and so on.* * In the case of our protagonist, he transgressed many of these categories publicly and defiantly from his first media interview, setting himself on course for social approbation and reprimand, which in this case was delivered by the media, as discussed below.

Traditionally, youths choose symbols that demarcate their cultural space from that of their parents – whether it be clothing, hairstyles, body decorations or language. Part of the attraction of the ‘new’ symbols is that they shock or offend the establishment, so as Dick Hebdidge points out: “In the 1970s, British punks used the swastika as a symbol not because they embraced Nazism but because they knew this symbol was so powerfully offensive to a generation of adults who came of age during the Second World War.” Henry Jenkins writes that “because we don’t understand what these symbols mean, we make them mean what we most fear that they mean.”

Likewise, Stanley Cohen coined the term “moral panic” to describe the situation in which:

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; the moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right thinking people. (9)

Cohen’s Folk Devils and Moral Panics focussed on the British Mods and Rockers of the 1960s, however other writers (e.g. Osgerby; Pearson) have outlined a cyclical demonisation of young people in the UK dating back to the eighteenth century and triggered sporadically by various socio-economic upheavals.

Cohen’s work was provocative and illuminating but has been the subject of critique in recent years on the basis of being outdated due to developments in media theory which foreground the active audience (Horsfield 32) or of providing a subjective high moral ground for the declarer of the panic, who self-identifies as concerned or rational while those around are panicking (Lumby 40). However it still seems pertinent to analyses of media discourses. For example McRobbie and Thornton argue that the media has become so enamoured with the device of moral panic, which seems to, “guarantee the kind of emotional involvement that keeps up the interest of, not just tabloid, but broadsheet newspaper readers, as well as the ratings of news and true crime televisions” (68) that journalists use the term openly and often to frame a story. “Moral panics, once the unintended outcome of journalistic practice, seem to have become a goal … moral panics have become the way in which daily events are brought to the attention of the public. They are a standard response, a familiar, sometimes weary, even ridiculous rhetoric rather than an exceptional emergency intervention” (idem).

The tabloid television program, A Current Affair, regularly uses this strategy to package the issues it covers and the insouciant Boy, with his pierced nipple, yellow McHappy sunglasses and “inappropriate” clothes (fur jacket over bare chest; pink doona as sarong) was a perfect target. A Current Affair started its segment on 14 January with a segue into a male voice over: “Looking like he’d raided Dr Zhivago’s wardrobe, [the Boy] strutted like a rock star this morning.” Not only had he failed to show contrition and still dared to “strut”, but he dressed subversively. He is neither adult enough to take responsibility for his actions, nor child-like enough to be shamed into obedience; no wonder he had to be brought into line.

The Children Are Revolting

There were a number of aspects to this case which may have riled the establishment. The Boy embraced the symbols of his so-called “Z-generation”, thus emphasising the anti-adultness of his identity; he refused to bow to authority or display the responses deemed appropriate by proper society; he was lauded by his peers; he became a celebrity; and he appeared to have the potential to make a lot of money doing what he enjoyed doing. What an outrage.

The groundswell of support for the Boy, not only for holding a legendary party, but for seemingly taking on the media at their own game and outmanoeuvring them in each interview, situated him as a threat if other adolescents started to mirror his anti-authoritarian stance. The media discourse started to embrace other fears – this wasn’t just one naughty boy who needed to be vilified; there was a potential revolution in the offing. The Victorian Opposition leader, Ted Baillieu told the Ten Network news on 15 January 2008; “this isn’t about a whacky kid and his mates. It’s about the crime and violence of young people.” (Ten Network 15 Jan. 2008).

Mark Schliebs reported, “teenagers who idolise party-boy [the Boy] are creating scenes of chaos across the country,” and a psychologist warned, it “could lead to someone dying” (Schliebs). Schliebs listed the rampage of national violence and chaos: in Cairns the door of a van was allegedly kicked in by a party goer and a lawnmower was allegedly stolen. In Adelaide, three teenagers were arrested after a party and the police helicopter was called in after some other partygoers, “became aggressive” towards the police. After this “riot”, the teenagers were charged with offences described as, “ranging from disorderly behaviour”, although we are not told what the other end of the offence range was.

Predicably, the next step was to increase the regulation of young people’s activities, and Buttler reported that the Victorian police proposed a number of new regulations including: the introduction of rental agreement clauses limiting the size of youth gatherings in rental properties; the application of council by-laws that restrict noise generated by loud tools, band practice and panel-beating to parties; tighter regulation of party hire and tougher alcohol laws; and the complicity of the community via “tip-offs” (Buttler) about teens using cyberspace to plan huge parties.

The coverage displayed the signs of a moral panic as the media demonstrated Cohen’s deviancy amplification spiral, that is, the cycle of reporting anti-social party behaviour, intensified over the weeks following the Boy’s party and included concerns about forms of communication popular with young people, which were seen as socially disruptive and adult-excluding.

It’s a Wired, Wired World

The popularity of this new pastime among children has increased rapidly. This new invader of the privacy of the home has brought many a disturbing influence in its wake. Parents have become aware of a puzzling change in the behaviour of their children. They are bewildered by a host of new problems, and find themselves unprepared, frightened, resentful, helpless. (Eisenberg 17)

Eisenberg was referring to the introduction of radio, but adult fear over the speed and competence with which children grasp increasingly complex communication technologies is a recurring trope. Children are the fastest growing demographic group on the internet and the role of social networks such as MySpace and Facebook in connecting young people instantly is viewed with what Lumby describes as broad cultural anxiety about the way, “the internet and the possibilities of virtual life are changing traditional social hierarchies,” including the boundaries between adults and children (45). She says that access to power is dependent on access to information and questions whether the community concern about the new communication technologies is, “solely related to risk to children or whether adults are also protecting themselves” (idem). During The 7.30 Report interview on 14 January, Inspector Steve Soden of the Victorian Police stated:

Young people are so well networked today and they can gather in a very quick period of time. We’ve had to restructure our crime department. We’ve had to look at our computer crime.

In his book Virtual Reality Jon Katz writes: “Children are at the epicenter of the information revolution, ground zero of the digital world. They helped build it, they understand it as well as, or better than, anyone else” (173).

The bewilderment over adolescent cultural symbols is thus discursively linked to another fear, technological competence, so that in the same way that parties become synonymous with youth crime and violence, they now also reinforce our cultural anxiety about losing our children’s innocence. Psychologist, Michael Carr-Gregg told The 7.30 Report, parents should consider, “family contracts” dealing with, “things like making sure that, particularly for the young kids, the computer isn’t in a bedroom, but is in a public place, making sure that they don’t post personal information online, such as their parents’ credit cards, their telephone numbers, and making sure that they don’t invite people round to their home in global invitations” (The 7.30 Report). Somehow the story segued from the Boy’s party to computer fraud; it seems that as long as the fear is being raised, it doesn’t matter which one it is.


This paper has used the widespread media coverage of the high profile case of a teenage party being closed down by the police to discuss and analyse how the age and gender of the protagonist combined to make his vilification widely acceptable and, it would appear, uncritically received. As the analysis indicates, the coverage of the case is consistent with the concept of the ‘moral panic’ which, it has been argued, has become a standard framing strategy for tabloid journalists. This has a number of implications. The first is that it encourages superficial reporting since the strategy only works if issues are simplified and sensationalised. The second, and perhaps more important, is the political implication, that the moral panic discourse allows considerations such as application of the UNCROC (or other human rights conventions) and the journalists’ professional code of ethics, which outline appropriate modes of behaviour, to be ignored. The effect is that the legal and moral rights of certain social groups, such as adolescent boys, can be trampled without protest.

As discussed, the concept of moral panic is not without problems and it has been critiqued by others in terms of the active audience, who should be able to engage with the media discourse, for example to reject the demonisation of young males, yet this did not happen. This raises the question of why, in this particular case, the vilification has been so broadly and uncritically accepted and amplified. The generalised anxiety over the role and behaviour of the adolescent, occupying an uneasy liminal space between childhood and adulthood has been identified as one factor. This plays out in different ways across the genders: in the case of wild party boys, the yearning for their regulation, control and punishment has been highlighted.

Linked to this anxiety over a loss of control by ‘society,’ (whether that be parents, teachers, authorities) is the discomfort and neurosis that surrounds the take up of new forms of communication such as, SMS or social networking online, which, it has been argued, is a long running and recurrent anxiety.

The discursive strategies used by the media to report this case have pandered to these cultural anxieties and worked to create a dichotomous reality of normal society and wild boys that reinforces the negative stereotypes of adolescents and legitimises their inequitable treatment.

Author Biography

Debra Mayrhofer, Edith Cowan University

Debra Mayrhofer is a freelance journalist who teaches in the School of Communication and Arts at Edith Cowan University. She completed a BA in Anthropology at UWA before studying journalism at the University of Canberra. She worked for the Australian Film TV and Radio School and Film Australia then moved into scriptwriting and documentary research, however journalism lured her back. Her academic research interests are children\’s rights; political participation; environmental activism; and the representation of sustainability. She writes for a number of cycling and environmental publications, as well as mainstream dailies.