chapter  9
Digital Social Media and Sexualization
Pages 21

During the 21st century, the world of communications changed dramatically as the internet and associated World Wide Web penetrated almost every society and enabled ordinary people to access huge quantities of information at the touch of a button or click of a mouse, to engage in a wide range of transactions that previously had been conducted face to face, by telephone or letter, and to become self-publicists. It is the self-publicity aspects of online technologies that have opened up a range of new settings in which sexualization of children can occur. The openness of the internet means that it enjoys freedom from regulations that restrict the activities of other media. Its accessibility also means that it can empower ordinary people in terms of being able to reach a multitude of others and to upload their content without being restricted by the editorial gatekeepers who control the regular mass media. More than this, the emergence of wireless technology that can match wired technology in terms of transmission capacity means that people can be connected to others all the time even while on the move. As with many new technologies, the young were dominant among the early

adopters of the internet and have also taken readily to mobile communications. From an early age most kids have mobile phones.1 Now they can use their phones not only to make voice calls, but also to download and upload content in the form of words and pictures. These technologies can have many social benefits in terms of ensuring that children can maintain contact with their parents when out with their friends, enabling users to make arrangements with others without the need to find a fixed location, landline telephone, and also allowing us all to update those we are due to meet about delays to our journeys. These technological developments, however, are a mixed blessing and are open to abuse. Some communications developments now allow us to post up-to-the minute information about where we are and what we are doing to a mass audience and enable others to post information about us on the same scale without our necessarily being aware of it.