Menstuff® has compiled information regarding
the issue of the value/danger of teen magazines.
Should you worry if your dauther avidly reads
magazines? Should you worry if your significant
other avidly reads shelter
books (like Cosmo, Allure, Vogue, Ladies
Home Journal?) We've long questioned their
social value. Here, Dawn Currie looks that the
issue in Daughters
magazine. Updated 12/16/01.
If your daughter is typical, she'll be drawn to
teen magazines. Their allure begins at about age 10
and can last until 16. During these years, she may
feel passionately about traditional titles like
and newer reads like CosmoGirl.
Whether or not you like these magazines, they're an
unavoidable part of the adolescent landscape. And
researchers have found that girls don't have to buy
teen magazines to read them - they're everywhere.
As parents, we must decide how to respond. Should
you worry if your dauther avidly reads teen
Treating Girls Like Women
If you read Seventeen when you were young,
you're in for a surprise. The editors of many teen
magazines now treat adolescent girls like adults.
Annemarie Iverson, YM's
editor, is typical. She holds a cookie klatch with
teens every Friday, and recently told the New
York Times, "Their lives parallel mine. They
are so stressed out." Meanwhile,
CosmoGirl's editor wants her magazine to
tell girls "everything we finally learned at 25
that we wished we'd known when we were 15." Even
the new magazine Mary-Kate and Ashley,
written for girls 10 and older, aims to "treat
girls like smart wsomen," according to senior
editor Erin Brereton.
These editors argue that girl readers face
grown-up problems, and therefore need the
information they offer. Indeed, it's trye that our
daughters must make decisions about sexual
activity, drug use, and drinking several years
before we did. Teen magazines alone don't create
that reality, but they do offer girls standards and
expectations - ways of deciding what's normal.
Many of us assume that photos of super-thin
models are the most damaging part of teen
magazines. But that may not be true. When I studied
magazine readers, I found that girls generally
recognized fashion and beauty ads as fantasy.
Stories and advice columns, however, seemed real to
them. They constructed ideas about what was normal
- and therefore desirable - based on what they
read. They wanted to fit in, and believed the
magazines would tell them how.
Unfortunately, analyzing teen magazines' content
reveals that "normal" means looking good, having a
boyfriend, consuming goods, and being popular. The
diverse identities and concerns of real girls are
scarely addressed, and messages like "be yourself"
and "do what's good for you" are overwhelmed by
basic beauty-and-boyfriend assumptions.
Her Whole Self
Narrow content. It's normal for adolescent girls
to want to fit in with their peers. WIth that in
mind, try not to prohibit or attack teen magazines.
Instead, discuss with your girl the limitations of
their content, which is not nearly rich enough to
reflect her life, interests, and potential.
Different girls. Research shows that girls who
already have a poor self-image are more vulnerable
to teen magazines. If this describes your daughter,
talk with her directly about the underlyuing
messages in these magazines. And if she's reading
Seventeen or Cosmo Girl at 13, ask
her to substitute one of the magazines listed
Competence over appearance. A resilient girl
feels competent. Help your daughter find things she
does well, especially acitvities that lie outside
traditional definitions of femininity. Promote
rock-climbing, acting, or computer skills.
Acitivites like these give girls a deep and abiding
sense of self.
Real Girls, Good Reads
Check out these alternatives to traditional teen
Girl celebrates girlhood and total self,
ages 8-12. www.americangirl.com
Moon girl-edited, strong on the total girl,
ages 8-14 www.newmoon.org
Dream/Girl girls interested in
self-expression and the arts, ages 9-14. www.dgarts.com
Voices girl-written, ages 14-22, www.teenvoices.com
11-12/01 Dawn Currie,
Ph.D, is the author of Girl
Talk: Adolescent Magazines and Their
Reprinted with permission, from Daughters
magazine; Copyright Dads
& Daughters. www.daughters.com
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