Kids Gone Wild

From Rainbow Parties to Sexting, Understanding the Hype Over Teen Sex

200 pages

5 graphs, 3 tables, 1 b/w photo

August, 2014

ISBN: 9780814760734

$25

Cloth

Also available in

Authors

Joel Best is Professor of Sociology & Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware. He has published more than twenty books on social problems and deviance, including Threatened Children, Random Violence, Damned Lies and Statistics, and The Student Loan Mess (with Eric Best.)

All books by Joel Best

Kathleen A. Bogle is Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at La Salle University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus.

All books by Kathleen A. Bogle

The myths and truths of teen's sexual behavior.

Winner of the 2015 Brian McConnell Book Award presented by the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research
 
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 the New 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?
 
In Kids 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 Wild is a much-needed wake-up call for a society determined to believe the worst about its young people.

Reviews

  • "Although research shows that white, middle-class teens are not actually out of control, that’s not the point here. Instead, Best and Bogle illustrate how infotainment reporting, online hubbub, and misleading statistics combine with our psychological tendency to create stories that stick, even when there’s no supporting evidence. . . . Even more importantly, the authors examine how cultural memes spread; their call to take a more critical look at the sensational stories we share, and how they do or don’t serve us, is worth hearing."

    Publishers Weekly

  • "The book takes a refreshing look at worries about teens ex by focusing not on adolescents' alleged behavior but rather on the process by which adults buy into the hype and perpetuate the concerns."

    Choice

  • "Best and Bogle dissect both these trends and convincingly determine that they are legends—stories that spread even though few kids have actually gone to a sex party or had sex based on the color of a bracelet. . . . Why do we so readily believe the tall tales? That part is easy. As Best and Bogle observe, rainbow parties and sex bracelets feed our paternal obsession with ‘threats to children’s innocence.’ For conservatives, they’re grist for the mill of abstinence-based sex education and chastity pledges. For liberals, they’re cause for worrying about the degradation of girls in a sexist culture.”  

    Slate.com

  • ". . . These varied measures of teen sexual behavior separate myth from truth."

    USA Today

  • “Bogle and Best analyzed the trajectory of isolated rumors about teenage debauchery to major network coverage on the evening news and found that few reporters took the time or effort to investigate the facts. Each time the public hears ‘Coming up at six: shocking news about the bracelet your kid is wearing,’ in the same breath as substantive reports about the Middle East and the economy, [Bogle] said, they are very difficult to shake.”

    The Inquirer

  • “The book is easy to follow and Best and Bogle describe the collection of data and the ways in which data is presented in an easy to understand manner. The intended audience is certainly those interested in or studying Sociology, Gender studies, Human Sexuality, and Criminal Justice. But the book also extends to parents and those working with youth. It is an excellent guide to use when learning about the connection between contemporary legends, the media, and current behavior among youth.”

    Metapsychology

  • "An impressive exposé of the outlandish stories the media tirelessly promotes about the sex lives of our children. Both shocking and informative, this myth-busting book is a must-read for any parent worried about what their kids are up to when they aren’t around."

    —Pepper Schwartz, co-author of Ten Talks Parents Must Have with Kids about Sex and Character

  • "Kids Gone Wild recasts our fears of childhood sexual abandon where they rightly belong—to a world of fiction, not fact. Best and Bogle place our worries in broader field of understanding, revealing media drift toward tabloidization, the machinations of urban legends, and the critical role class and racial inequalities play in the distribution of risk. In doing so, they help to explain why stories of kids gone wild gain traction in the first place. A timely and engaging read."

    —Amy Best, author of Fast Cars, Cool Rides: The Accelerating World of Youth and Their Cars

  • "Adult moral panic, fear of a sexually active teen planet and sensationalized media coverage are met with a critical eye and solid data analysis. Best & Bogle warn us, don’t believe the hype, the kids are alright! A lively and welcomed addition to the literature in youth studies and media studies."

    —Donna Gaines, author of Teenage Wasteland: Suburbia's Dead End Kids