Consumerism of Teens and Their Magazines

There is not a day that goes by where I don’t witness a teenage girl in the mall dressed very provocatively, wearing short skirts, tight shirts, and covered in make-up. The group of girls she associates herself with is also dressed very sexy and in my opinion inappropriate for their age. As they walk they giggle and hold conversations about fashion and what they did with their boyfriends last night. Checking out stores for the latest trends, they also take a look at some sexy lingerie in the display at Victoria’s Secret.

Seeing some cute boys walking past they all follow the steps learned in Seventeen magazine’s “How to Catch a Guy” feature.

Just making it home by curfew, they all rush upstairs to their room to read their latest edition of Cosmo GIRL with plans to do it all again tomorrow. Teen magazines are sending the wrong messages to young teenage girls. These magazines are urging girl’s to capitalize on their looks and transform themselves from the average girl to the “hot” girl.

Girls are reading these magazines and conforming to the images portrayed in these magazines, without even realizing it. They are focusing more on their image and what other people think of them, than what they think of themselves.

Most teen magazines center around making yourself look better with headlines consisting of “Dress to impress. ” “Easy hair makeovers. ” “Find the perfect hair, makeup, and style for you! ” “Be a knockout! (Beauty and the Teen).

Girls are faithful magazine consumers and they take what these magazines say to the heart, feeling pressured to live by the rules of the magazine. As a Kaiser Family Foundation study pointed out, 42 percent of the girls aged twelve through fifteen relied on magazines to keep abreast of current trends (Liebau).

Teen magazines are constructing young girls to believe that in this world being beautiful or, as they say in the magazines, being “hot” is an obligation. Body image is also a huge depiction in teen magazines. These magazines feature articles about how to be healthy and what foods and workouts can help achieve a healthy body. But what these magazines forget to mention is that being healthy doesn’t mean you have to be a size zero. In articles that focus on being healthy there is likely to be a picture of an undersized odel with tight abs.

These are the type of images in teen magazines that shapes a girl’s view about body image. Joan Jacobs Brumberg, author of “The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls,” stated that “many young girls worry about the contours of their bodies especially shape, size and muscle tone because they believe the body is the ultimate expression of the self” (Gibbons). As girls view the ads and pictures of all these size zero models, they began to think that that is what people expect girls to look like.

A study conducted by the Center on Media and Child and Child Health pointed out that 70% of teen girls agree that magazines strongly influence what they think is the ideal body type (How do Magazines Affect Body Image? ). Teen magazines are easily seducing young girls by putting their favorite singer, model or actress on the cover. When on the cover of these magazines these stars look phenomenal and flawless. What these young girls don’t seem to realize is that professional photographers are just that, professional. They use their knowledge of lighting, angles and distances to make the picture look that much better.

Then after they get the picture they’re looking for, they re-touch and airbrush it, removing fine lines, wrinkles, freckles and blemishes with the touch of a mouse as if they were never there to start with. In reality, behind the make-up and airbrushing, these stars look just as normal as the girl reading the magazine, but this is the side that these girls don’t see. All they see is what’s in front of them and that’s the glimmered up, flawless, perfect physique, fashion setter on the cover of their favorite teen magazine.

Researcher of media and pop culture’s influence on adolescents, Patrice Oppliger, stated that although, teen magazines may occasionally add inspirational stories or advice on “being yourself,” they are also sending mixed messages to teenage girls, such as, “Be an adult but remain a kid; Look sexy but stay a virgin; Dress like this model but maintain your own style. ” These magazines are confusing these young girls and transforming them into the complete opposite of what they once used to be.

How is it that on one page in a magazine the topic is focused on “Being Yourself” and on the next page it focuses on how to dress, look, and act like someone the complete opposite. If this isn’t confusing then I don’t know what is. The girls living their life out of a magazine are the ones who have the wrong interpretations of what’s most important in this world. Girls are transforming themselves to what they see portrayed in these magazines because they think those are the only images that are accepted in this world.

These magazines are corrupting these young girls, making them believe that just being yourself is not enough. Many teen magazines are marketed towards girls between the ages of thirteen and fifteen, but of course, these magazines are attracting younger audiences as well. Carol Platt Liebau, who is a writer and political commentator, mentioned that some of the content is relatively innocuous teen fare, with stories about lip gloss, parties, and how to be popular. But 18 percent of magazine articles pertain either to sex, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, contraception, or abortion.

Obviously, the writers and editors of teen magazines have heard the statement, “sex sells,” because these magazines are filled with articles about hooking up, sex stories, the cutest guys, and how to attract the opposite sex. These young girls are falling prey to the gratuitous sex in teen magazines targeted at girls ages 13-17. The sexual content in these magazines play a central role in the formation of a young girl’s identity (Grace). Following the steps and the advice that they have read in these magazines, these girls start to apply themselves much more to try and catch that boy that they have had such a huge crush on.

They start to show a little more skin and spend a million hours in the bathroom trying to get that perfect look. These magazines are making girls exploit themselves in order to get a date. Teen magazines are basically telling these young girls that in order for a boy to like them, they have to be hot and sexy and look their best at all times because guys don’t like the “normal” looking girls. Through their readings, young girls become vicariously embroiled in sexual intrigue and are confronted with distasteful issues said Liebau.

These magazines may not actively encourage young girls to have sex, but all the sex material creates the perception that sex is important. The more and more they encounter and read this sexual material, the more tempted they become to experiment with it. Instead of helping girls develop a healthy attitude towards sex they are actually sending them the message that sex is an essential topic and everyone is doing it. These magazines may provide sexual advice, but at the same time the advice given seems to contradict itself at times. Seventeen magazine had an article titled “Stop! Read This Before You Have Sex. ” Liebau pointed out that although this article mentioned abstinence as an option and readers were urged to talk to their parents about sex, they were also advised on how to obtain a referral to a gynecologist without their parent’s knowledge or consent. They encourage readers to be abstinent but if they need to obtain a referral to a gynecologist isn’t it already too late? These magazines also influence readers to talk to their parents about sex but when they want to go get checked for any STD’s it’s okay to not inform them.

This makes no sense. They should encourage teens to have an open relationship with their parents at all times, but instead it’s giving advice on how to keep things a secret from their parents. Speaking of parents and things that should relatively be important to teenage girls are what seems to be missing in these magazines. A 1997 analysis of articles in leading teen magazines Seventeen, YM, Sassy, and Teen found themes relating to appearance (37%), dating (35%), and clothes and fashion (32%) were most prevalent.

Few articles focused on topics such as self-confidence (16%), family (15%), career (12%), school (12%), and becoming independent (5%) (Oppliger). These magazines obviously feel that one’s appearance and dating life is much more important than their family relationship and future career and education. The content in these magazines are shaping what girls feel are most important in this world. As a result of teen magazines, girls are spending more hours in the mirror working on their appearance and fewer hours at their desk working on homework.

With teen magazines emphasizing so much on looks and “hook-ups,” they are sending girls to school with the mentality that school is an environment for just socializing, instead of a place to receive an education. Sheila Gibbons, who is editor of Media Report to Women, voiced that these magazines envision teenage girls’ lives as endless popularity contests with articles like “301 ways to be the coolest girl in class” in Teen magazine and “432 ways to go back to school a new person” in YM.

These magazines have little to say to girls about the value of academic achievement, civic engagement or intellectual challenges. I guess it is safe to say that according to teen magazines, the brain comes second to the body. Teen magazines may not be the entire reason why teenage girls are showing more skin, wearing more make-up, and engaging in sexual activity but it is one of the reasons. Teen magazines are turning girls away from what’s really important, such as school and family, and shaping them to believe that the real world focuses primarily on looks and sex.

It’s about that time that teen magazines incorporate more articles about family relationships, instead of boyfriend, girlfriend relationships. Girls read these magazines and take the messages stated to the heart, making them change their image because they think that by doing so it will make them more popular. The writers of teen magazines need to stop being so money hungry, and start making articles that make girls feel good to just be themselves.

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