The Media’s Emphasis on Child Abductions

The Media's Emphasis on Child Abductions

Children can be considered the most fragile aspect of society due to the innocence they possess. They contain a wild imagination that allows them the adventure of childhood memories. With such innocence, comes danger. Child innocence is rare, which can sometimes attract adults in negative ways. Some adults admire such innocence and use it against children to pursue criminal actions. “Frozen” exhibits such innocence being stolen, and the aftermath adults must endure to get that ounce of liveliness back into their lives. 

Gill Valentine wrote a book on the culture of childhood and how important this feature is within society. “The abduction or murder of a child [represents] a threat to [the] association of childhood with specialness and freedom from the adult world,” Gill wrote. “It is not therefore just individual children who are perceived to be under threat in modern society; the institution of childhood itself is also at risk of violation.” 

Crime shows like Dateline NBC often publicize only the strongest cases of child abductions and fails to report the more common abduction cases: ones committed by family members. PHOTO / NBCUniversal

The media plays a role in creating this “risk of violation” with the various amounts of crime shows created. On numerous episodes of various crime shows, there are child crimes involved. How these crimes are handled and solved create a misconception for society. This idea ties into the type of crimes reported by the media. According to creditdonkey.com, “every 40 seconds a child goes missing somewhere in the U.S. and there are more than 460,000 missing children each year, almost 1,500 of which are kidnapped. Of these kidnappings, 205 of them are family abductions.” The problem is not many people would know these facts because they are under-reported by the media. The crimes the media usually shows are the stranger abductions. This creates a jarred idea of these types of crimes, not only for families, but for society.

Another fault of the media is that they have the power to choose which story to air. This presents a lot of commonalities among the cases represented. Just take a moment to think back to all the child cases reported that you can remember. Chances are, they were probably pretty, caucasian children. In the news today, the common child abduction cases represented are, young, white, conventionally pretty children. This is not to say that they don’t suffer as much, but it creates a sense of disparity within the media, because children of all races go missing, yet they don’t all get full representation and media coverage. 

Paula Fass, Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley, puts this situation into perspective when she said, “historically the media has favored attractive, white children and those children whom I would describe as media-friendly…the media’s idea about the child and the use of the particular cases that they’re advertising is, in fact, in order to elicit an emotional response on the part of their viewers, listeners, or readers. As a result, they take the most effective representation of the child… and they tend to exploit that in order to make their case and bring their audience in with them.” 

These flaws from the media create the ultimate question: how reliable is the media in the distribution of information? As previously illustrated, the media chooses who to publicize. With this, society isn’t getting a full understanding of all the missing children cases. Also, entertainment media creates a mixed idea of the true process during these crimes. This can blur parents’ conceptions of outcomes when this tragedy happens to them. The media also chooses to publicize rare, stranger abductions more than the common family ones. Media professionals like to keep their audience on their toes with juicy stories and details. With the nit picky process media professionals go through before airing a story, society may begin to wonder what information is missing.