2016: Volume 9, Issue 1, pp. 87-102

Media Discourse on Cell Phone Technology and “Left-Behind Children” in China

Janice Hua Xu



Through critical analysis of selected news stories from sina.com from 2010 to 2015 about cell phones and “left-behind children” in China, this article examines media discourses on the relationship between migrant families and communication technology. The author finds that the roles of cell phones in their lives are portrayed in the following narratives: 1) cell phones are highly valuable for connecting family members living apart; 2) cell phones are used as a problem-solver in charity giving and rural development projects; 3) cell phones can bring unexpected risks to children lacking media literacy; and 4) cell phones could harbour or unleash evil—associated with increasing cases of juvenile delinquency or crime stories. The author discusses how the different institutional goals of social agencies, corporations, educators, and law enforcement contribute to the polarity of the discourses, reflecting the societal anxieties over unsupervised use of mobile devices by adolescents, as well as the cultural and political implications of empowering the “have-nots” of the digital divide by improving access to communication technology.


Full Text: