Teens and Sexting talk at Salem State

For my readers who are in the Salem, Mass. area: I am helping to organize a talk on the topic of Teenagers and Sexting, to be presented by Dr. Jessica Ringrose (Institute of Education, London) at Salem State University on September 20. It is free and open to the public.

How do young people experience the sending and receiving of sexually explicit content through mobile, digital technologies? At this presentation, Dr. Ringrose shares the findings of her study on “sexting” with 35 teens from two inner city London schools. She reports that among boys, collecting explicit images of girls served as a way to secure status among peers. In contrast, most girls experienced “sexting” with these boys as a site of potential risk, blame, and hatred around sexual reputation (e.g., being called a slut). Join Dr. Ringrose for a provocative discussion of how digital technology mediates school life, including gendered and sexualized peer hierarchies, popularity, intimacy, sexualized bullying, and harassment.

More details available at Teenagers and Sexting: Thursday, Sept. 20 at 12 p.m..

CFP: Princess Cultures: Mediating Girls’ Identities and Imaginations

My colleague Miriam Forman-Brunell and I are co-editing an anthology about princesses. It will be published by Peter Lang, the same academic press that published my previous book. Please let me know if you’d like to contribute an essay; and please spread the word to others who might be interested in writing something for us. Thanks!


Princess Cultures: Mediating Girls’ Imaginations and Identities 

Miriam Forman-Brunell, Ph.D., University of Missouri-Kansas City
Rebecca Hains, Ph.D., Salem State University

Peter Lang Press
“Mediated Youth” series, edited by Sharon Mazzarella

Princesses are significant figures in girl culture, and they have been for at least the last two centuries. This anthology brings together international and interdisciplinary perspectives on the meanings of princesses in girls’ lives historically, currently, and comparatively: We consider how and why princess culture continues to play a role in girls’ lives.

Encompassing pop culture princesses (such as the Disney Princesses and Princess Barbie), fairy tales (and their more recent feminist revisions), and contemporary royal figures (such as Princess Diana and Kate Middleton), among others, this book illuminates the many forms that princess culture has taken across time and space—continuously redrawn and recast, but always enjoying a prominent and privileged position in girls’ everyday lives and fantasy worlds and women’s collective memories.


The editors are seeking additional scholarly essays that examine the princess as mediating figure in the imaginations and identities of girls in the US and around the world. We are especially interested in essays by scholars researching:

1) princess cultures outside the US
2) historical or contemporary royal figures

Please send a 300-word proposal, a brief bibliography, CV, and contact information to: Miriam Forman Brunell at forman-brunellm@umkc.edu and Rebecca Hains at rhains@salemstate.edu by July 15, 2012.

July 15, 2012: 300-word Proposal deadline

August 1, 2012: Notification of accepted proposals

January 15, 2013: Chapter drafts (7,000-9,000 words)

Turn off your television! Screen-Free Week starts Monday.

Have you heard of “screen time”? It’s a term describing the time we spend in front of screens, large and small, consuming media on a daily basis.

Video games.

Many screens compete for our attention, and we’re spending more time with them than ever.

Because of concerns about this trend, experts encourage parents to keep their children’s time with all these screens to a minimum. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under the age of two, and a maximum of two hours daily for preschool children.

But it’s easy to make screen time a family habit. In the typical U.S. home, T.V. is a focal point for relaxation and entertainment–constantly on, as long as someone is at home and awake.

Unfortunately, for our kids, too much screen time can harm their development. Too much media and too little time on other developmentally important tasks can lead to poor school performance, childhood obesity, and other problems. New research suggests that even background television–when the T.V. is on without really being watched–can harm younger children by interrupting their mental tasks.

Too much screen time hurts older children, too. For example, adolescents who watch three or more hours of television each day often have more trouble completing their homework and risk long-term academic problems, according to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Overuse of internet, including social media, has been implicated in similar problems.

Screen-Free Week logoMedia habits are hard to break. That’s why the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) sponsors Screen-Free Week annually. This year, Screen-Free Week runs from from April 30 to May 6. Thousands of families will participate, putting aside their screens for other fun activities.

The CCFC explains:

Screen-Free Week is a fun and innovative way to improve children’s well-being by reducing dependence on entertainment screen media, including television, video games, computers, and hand-held devices.  It’s a time for children to play outside, read, daydream, create, explore, and spend more time having fun with family and friends.

It’s also a chance to reset media habits. After taking a break for a week, many families find it easier to enjoy other activities besides screen time on a routine basis.

Play, not screens (CCFC image)So, what will families do with all their “extra time” during Screen-Free Week? The possibilities are limited only by our imaginations. The CCFC suggests these ideas:

  • Play with art supplies
  • Play with words
  • Play with music
  • Make up songs
  • Play with blocks
  • Play with nothing
  • Play cards and board games
  • Play indoors
  • Play outdoors
  • Play tag
  • Play sports
  • Play together
  • Play alone

Want more detailed possibilities? Here’s a list of 101 great screen-free activities, courtesy of the CCFC:

101 Screen-Free Activities, Part 1101 Screen-Free Activities, Part 2

My family will join Screen-Free Week. Won’t you?

Parents: Is Screen-Free Week a good option for your family? What kinds of fun things could you do in a week without screen time?

Also, if you’ve participated in a previous Screen-Free Week and have any suggestions or memories to share, please post them below!

Enjoy this blog? Find me on twitter or facebook.

Ponies, petitions, and girl power: This week’s roundup

Last week, I kept busy working on the My Little Pony petition, asking Hasbro to stop promoting superficial stereotypes of girls. Change.org invited me to contribute a guest post to their web site about the petition. It’s called “I Won’t Buy My Little Pony Toy That Makes Smart Princess Shallow.” You can read it here.

Mommyish.com also reported on the petition. Koa Beck wrote:

Hearing these [stereotypical] phrases from their favorite pony countless times a day cements the cultural message that girls consistently receive about their beauty being paramount. That their other achievements and interests, not matter how much they excel at them, will come second to beauty — and that’s because they’re girls.

Also of possible interest:

Thanks for reading, everyone. Has anything of interest come across your screens in the past week? What’s caught your attention?

Order my book, Growing Up With Girl Power, today!

I’m delighted that my book, Growing Up With Girl Power: Girlhood On Screen and in Everyday Life, is now available from my publisher, Peter Lang Press! Won’t you buy a copy?

You can order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or directly from PeterLang.com. Orders placed now should arrive by the end of February.

Here’s a synopsis:

For more than a decade, girl power has been a cultural barometer, reflecting girlhood’s everchanging meanings. How did girl power evolve from a subcultural rallying cry to a mainstream catchphrase, and what meaning did young girls find in its pop culture forms? From the riot grrrls to the Spice Girls to The Powerpuff Girls, and influenced by books like Reviving Ophelia and movements like Take Our Daughters to Work Day, Growing Up With Girl Power charts this history. It considers how real girls who grew up with girl power interpreted its messages about empowerment, girlhood, strength, femininity, race, and more, and suggests that for young girls, commercialized girl power had real strengths and limitations–sometimes in fascinating, unexpected ways. Encompassing issues of preadolescent body image, gender identity, sexism, and racism, Growing Up With Girl Power underscores the importance of talking with young girls, and is a compelling addition to the literature on girls, media, and culture.

Professors: Are you considering assigning Growing Up With Girl Power in one of your classes? Request a free desk copy here, and check out my book’s companion website–it’s full of great content to prompt class discussion. If you adopt it for your course, I would be glad to visit or chat with your class via Skype. Email me for details!

Save the Childhood Studies program at Rutgers University!

In 2007, Rutgers University launched North America’s first doctoral-level program in Childhood Studies–a multidisciplinary program located at Rutgers’ Camden, NJ campus that also offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

The program’s creation was fantastic news: the program promised to serve as a pipeline for research and social action on issues relevant to children.

The fact that an institution as esteemed Rutgers saw value in a Childhood Studies program was a boost to our growing field (which also saw the creation of the Journal of Children in Media in 2007 and Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal in 2008).

Now, in 2012–a mere 5 years later–New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has endorsed a plan to merge Rutgers University at Camden, hostile-takeover-style, into neighboring Rowan University.

Jettisoning Childhood Studies from Rutgers would sever the program’s faculty and students from the resources available at Rutgers–which could cripple this groundbreaking program. Professor Daniel Cook, director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Childhood Studies at Rutgers, explains:

All of this is threatened by this “merger” which would take the resources and name of Rutgers away and thrust us into incredible uncertainty. We are hoping to make the case to the Rutgers Board of Governors that our program is something unique and valued not only by us but others and an important part of that value comes from our identity as Rutgers.

Indeed, he is correct: Childhood Studies has symbolic value beyond Rutgers’ walls. A blow to the program would be a symbolic blow to our field.

Do you believe in the importance of Childhood Studies–in the value of treating children’s lives as a subject worthy of serious study?

If so, please sign this petition to help keep Childhood Studies part of Rutgers University. Thank you!