Introduction to Criminology

Moral Panic refers to the sociological concept that pursues to elucidate a specific type of over-reaction to a perceived social problem. Additionally, it is an extensive fear that someone is a hazard to the ethics, security, and welfares of a community at large. It is defined as a situation where public doubts and state involvements importantly surpass the objective hazard pretended to society by a specific person who is claimed to be accountable for generating the threat in the first place (Hier, 2016). This essay discusses the distinguishing features of moral panics. Moreover, it entails the phenomena from news articles that showcase the features of moral panic. It also explains the social control to regulate the individual's behavior in the article. Furthermore, it discusses the use of a theory named elite-engineered model as a development of moral panic concept.

There are five distinguishing features of moral panic that are named as a measurable concern, volatility, consensus, hostility, and disproportionality (Cossins, 2015). All these features together serve as indicators for knowing how and when a moral panic is establishing around an assumed state. Measurable concern means that there should be faith that the conduct of activity believed divergent is probable to have an undesirable effect on society. This may entail sensitive attention, social drive activity, and planned legislation. Further, there must be recognition of a specific challenging group and a sensitive level of hostility to members of that group. Furthermore, there must be considerable and prevalent agreement among members of the community about the hazard the problematic group stances. Additionally, there should be a disproportional undesirable response to the problem group. Lastly, moral panics are extremely unstable and incline to vanish as rapidly as they appear, due to prompt changes in a news report or public interest (Schildkraut, Elsass & Stafford, 2015).

As per the news article The Guardian (2017), there has been discussion about the disastrous impact of using smartphones on their offspring. The cases of depression, teen suicide, low self-esteem, and a sense of isolation have become progressively increased all over the world. Furthermore, the article by the conversation (2017) stated that the country named as Colorado has banned the trade of smartphones for usage by offspring less than 13 years of age. The phenomena of usage of smartphones have become a moral panic over what we fear will negatively impact all, and the society at large. It arises of the technological advancements and it encourages individuals to extract from, rather than involve with and comprehend, the methods of currently and tomorrow. These phenomena can be considered as a moral panic as it is affecting the society at large and parents today make use of technology so that their child may remain calm. Moreover, it is due to the technology that permitted offspring to enjoy more independence. Haridy (2020) stated that there has also been found that the use of smartphones, social media, and online gaming results in a decline in the social skills of children when compared with earlier generation individuals. The social control approaches have also been discussed like the introduction of a group named as PAUS (parents against underage smartphones) and it offers the information regarding undesirable effects of the usage of phones on offspring. This thing can control the behavior of parents and there can be the elimination of moral panic arises due to smartphone usage by underage children.

There are three theories to explain how the idea of moral panics developed namely the grassroots model, interest-group model, and elite-engineered model (Hier, 2016). This essay discusses the elite-engineered model and it recommends that moral panics are composed of political, financial, and other influential leaders via their regulation of the main establishments of civilization. These moral panics are planned to direct responsiveness away from other communal glitches as a method to safeguard the leaders economic welfares by concentrating on developing fear and anxiety to conduct that elites identify to be not damaging to civilization (Reed, 2015).

From the above essay, it can be concluded that moral panics are to arise when an individual is found to be assumed as a threat to social norms and interests. Further, it can be inferred that the use of smartphones by underage children is considered to be a moral panic that is affecting society at large. Additionally, there are five distinguishing features of the moral panics namely concern, volatility, consensus, hostility, and disproportionality.

References for Moral Panic in Contemporary Times

Cossins, A. (2015). The Moral Panic Concept: Its History, Social Utility, and Ability to Interpret Past Events. In Female Criminality (pp. 16-56). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Haridy (2020). Concerns over kids’ screen-time a modern-day “moral panic”, says study. Retrieved from

Hier, S. (2016). Moral panic, moral regulation, and the civilizing process. The British journal of sociology67(3), 414-434.

Reed, I. A. (2015). Deep culture in action: resignification, synecdoche, and metanarrative in the moral panic of the Salem Witch Trials. Theory and Society44(1), 65-94.

Schildkraut, J., Elsass, H. J., & Stafford, M. C. (2015). Could it happen here? Moral panic, school shootings, and fear of crime among college students. Crime, Law, and Social Change63(1-2), 91-110.

The conversation (2017). Banning smartphones for kids is just another technology-fearing moral panic. Retrieved from

The guardian (2017). Enough with the moral panic over smartphones. The kids are all right. Retrieved from

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