Mean girls in the press: a content analysis of two Toronto newspapers
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Recent criminological scholarship characterizes media attention to aggressive girls, or “mean girls,” as a moral panic, which is correlated with the creation of increasingly punitive antibullying policies in North America. Content analysis was used to uncover how news attention to youth aggression around the time of Reena Virk’s murder contributed to this moral panic in Toronto newspapers. Results indicate that Virk’s murder helped change the frequency and nature of news coverage of girls’ bullying. Reporting on girls’ bullying significantly increased and the dominant news frame falsely presented girls’ bullying as a major and rising problem in schools. The news coverage coincided with the development of more punitive Canadian youth policies. Recommendations for future research, theoretical development, and media practice are provided.