Teen magazines not aimed at real young people

By Kathryn Hicks
I. J. Samson Junior High
St. John's, Newfoundland

Many of the teen magazines today focus on a teen's looks, how much money he/she has, and the material things in life. When I read one of these magazines I often wonder: who exactly are these magazines written for?


I live in St. John's Newfoundland and the teen magazines that are on our newsstands are YM (young and modern), Seventeen, Twist, Teen People, Teen, and Jump. YM is mostly about beauty and fashion with the exception of one real life story in each issue, such as "My best Friend Committed Suicide". Twist is mostly about fashion, television shows and movies. Teen and Jump are about fashion and try to be about fitness but they do not exactly give the right information about how to be fit. Seventeen is about fashion and beauty but it is more realistic than other magazines: it tells you how to do a certain kind of make-up do but does not make you believe it will make you look like some actress. Teen People is about real issues like STD's and how teens deal with stress. It is also about celebrities.

All of these magazines are from America except Jump, which is from Canada. Teens from America who read these magazines may feel that they reflect them, but I think that if these magazines are going to be sold in many different places they should reflect all teens. My friends and I do not feel these magazines present a true picture of what we are like, and do not represent our interests and concerns.

In my opinion these magazines are reaching out to rich girls. And exactly how many of them do you know? The teens I know do not have $200 to blow on make up so they can "get glamed up" or another $500 to spend on clothes to "suit her sizzlen style". The people I know, on an average get about $5.00 a week for allowance and many more don't even get that! There is another thing: Why would you go spend $100 dollars to buy a new outfit so you could "sweat in style?

Average teens also do not use the sort of language used in magazines- "How to snag that hottie", "sweat in style", "Sarah Michael Gellar, Liv Tyler snag their stellar looks", "double –duty booty", "rents", and "The ex files". The way the magazines talk about getting guys is awful. You would think that every girl in the world had to have a guy. For example, seven articles in one YM magazine I read were related to guys and boyfriends. This language is also misleading: the article which tells you how to "snag their stellar looks" only shows you how to do their make up. Do you really think that if you did your make up the same way as someone else you would look like them? I don't think so. And who calls their parents "rents"?

Another thing that is almost insulting to the teenage race is the quizzes that are presented in these magazines. "How do you rate as a first date?" are you a wimp or a winner?" and "Discover your skin type and get a flawless face". The way these quizzes interpret teens you would think the biggest problem we have is chewing bubble gum and doing our hair at the same time! Teens do have real problems like teen pregnancy, STD's, family problems, drugs, and alcohol. By reading these magazines you would think all teenagers are shallow airheads.

Not only are the quizzes extremely ditzy, so are the top 50 reason lists. "50 ways to feel good about your body" and when in fact you are done reading this article you feel worse about your body because to do what they say, you would have to spend at least $200. Others are "50 reasons why it's great to be a girl". Sure it's great to be a girl, it's great to be a guy too! Another is "How to fake a perfect life". The number one reason is to clean up your room in 10 minutes. Tell me how your life would be perfect if you cleaned up your room in 10 minutes?

The worst thing that these magazines do is that, instead of making teens feel good about themselves they make them feel worse. Most of the teen magazines I looked at showed the skinny models half-dressed advertising perfume. I know when I see these advertisements that I don't feel very good about my self-image. I think the people who publish these magazines have a picture in their heads that an average teen is tall, skinny, with long blond hair, basically a Barbie girl. How a teen feels about her/himself is a very important thing. Being compared to these is not good for teens self esteem.

I did a totally random survey on teen magazines in my school/grade. I asked which magazine they liked the best out of YM, Seventeen, Twist, Teen People, Teen, and Jump and why? What do you think should be written in teen magazines for people to have good self-esteem and a good self- image? What don't you like about today's teen magazines? To answer the first question most people liked Seventeen. On average they said that they liked it because it has true stories and is very entertaining. To the second question, most people answered that they would like to see average size models and good fitness information. The answer to the last question was the most interesting. One girl said, and I quote: "these magazines portray females as male crazy, self-bashing, fashion freaks who look like models". Others said they didn't like the ditzy language, the skinny models, or the senseless quizzes.

In my opinion out of the magazines YM, Seventeen, Twist, Teen People, Teen, and Jump I find Teen People the best. This magazine focuses on real issues. In one issue, for example, there were articles on "STD"S: facts you need to know" and "Stressed out, teens tell how to deal". This is the kind of thing I like seeing in a magazine.

Seventeen is okay in my opinion, but a lot of it is about fashion. YM, Twist, and Teen are the magazines from which I got most of my negative examples. They use a lot of the language I have criticized and have really ditzy quizzes. One thing I do like about the YM magazines is that they publish a real life story in every issue. I find Jump to be mostly advertisements: in one issue I read, every second page was an advertisement.

Another thing I don't like about Jump is they have a slogan on the cover that reads "For girls who dare to be real". This couldn't be further from the truth. I find that many girls I know feel the same way about teen magazines as I do, yet we all continue to buy them. That is something I will never be able to explain.