Term Paper: Teen Magazines Psychology

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¶ … sampling of the articles within the popular teen magazine "Seventeen," including a synopsis of feature articles and columns. The paper then evaluates the issues and topics dominating the content, the appeal of the magazine to teens, and relates these findings to the literature available on teen reading habits and their influence on lifestyle choices and behaviors.

Seventeen Magazine Critiques

The magazine reviewed for this research analysis is Seventeen magazine, one of the more popular magazines for young women and children ages thirteen through eighteen. The June issue of Seventeen magazine featured subjects including: fashion, hair & makeup, health, sex, fitness, college & career to name a few subjects.

The magazine places much emphasis on the subjects of fashion, hair and makeup. Even short columns talking about getting ready for college like "College packing list" focus on fashion and the idea of "looking good" in college and in high school. The magazine features tips for learning more about the fashion industry, and encourages young women to find out what it takes to be a model, describing models as "swanky." Hollywood celebrities epitomized by young girls, including Vanessa Minnillo are featured in the magazine. The article relating to celebrity starts focus among other subjects, on their love life and relationship and their fashion sense.

Such emphasis on fashion, looks, and sexuality are images that dominate the magazine, and place the idea that sexuality and femininity are important for young women. There is less attention in the magazine to adolescent male perspectives on fashion and sexuality. The magazine does seem to be targeting young adolescent girls more so than boys.

The subject of sex and sexuality does come up, with short articles encouraging readers to talk with their parents about sex. This is good, and readers are encouraged to look to strong female figures like "Tori Amos" for inspiration when making decisions about their life and career choices. The magazine does include much information on young adolescents future, which shows promise the magazine is not solely concerned with looking "pretty" and with fashion.

In discussing hair, skin and makeup, the magazine often relies on popular young adult celebrity figures for advice and influence. Unfortunately, this may have a negative impact on readers, as most Hollywood "youngsters" look very different from ordinary adolescents, as they often have an entourage of stylists and other professionals doing their makeup and hair. They present an image that is almost impossible for most ordinary teens to achieve. Women presented as "comfortable" with their weight in the magazine are women that are already very beautiful and thin.

The magazine does not feature women or other adolescents that have poor skin, are chubby and perhaps have low self-esteem. A magazine featuring more "real-life" adolescents may be more helpful for young girls especially, as they would have a stronger grasp of what "real" adolescents go through. The lives of celebrities including the Olsen Twins, Rihanna and others are far from "normal" if compared to the average teen.

There is evidence in the literature review, presented below, that the constant bombardment of such images and talk of subjects including fashion, hair, makeup and sex, make young women grow up and concern themselves too much with their sexuality and appearance. It seems by reading this material; young women especially are more likely to hold themselves to unhealthy standards of perfection. Young adolescent boys seeing these magazines, ultimately are likely to compare their "ordinary" classmates with the images of brushed, "perfect-looking" young women presented in these magazines.

The health section of Seventeen's May issue is rather decent. Subjects discussed include "How do you know if your period is regular" and "Can you work out too much?" However, there are also articles on whether readers can "lose weight without exercising." This stresses the notion that young adolescents should concern themselves with dieting, something they should not focus on. Young adults should be more focused on eating well to nourish their bodies, with less emphasis on whether they are fat or thin, how much makeup they have on and how well they present themselves to others. Articles that may be more helpful might include articles on making healthy lifestyle choices, or articles describing how to create balanced meals to bolster one's energy while attending classes for example.

Interestingly, many of the teenage guys featured in the "dating" sections of the magazine are presented in much more normal terms than the adolescent girls featured. Most do not look airbrushed. Some have pimples; most are dressed quite ordinary, without much attention to fashion. This likely sends the message that it is ok for men to look frumpy or wear what they want, but emphasizes again that this standard is not the same for young girls. This can only contribute to young girl's beliefs or attitudes toward their image and what they "should" or "should not do" to feel accepted.

Of note, the July 2007 issue will feature Jessica Alba and "America's Top Model," another indication the magazine places too much emphasis on perfection and fashion, and how people should look. Highlights of the July issue will include "Finding the Perfect T-shirt & Jeans." Perhaps readers would benefit more from articles like "How to connect with your parents" or "How to create goals that further your dreams."

Analysis of Literature

Chapin (2000) notes much controversy exists about adolescents' exposure to sex and other graphic images in the medial. The researcher suggests adolescents are more likely to exhibit an interest in sexuality in part because they continue to physically mature faster than they have in times previous. The author cites Hamburg (1992) noting the average age of menarche in women has dropped from sixteen to ages twelve and thirteen, with some young girls developing as early as age nine (Chapin, 2000:799). Many adolescents' according to some prefer to view material within the privacy of their room (Larson, 1995) suggesting they view sexuality still as a matter that is taboo or not "normal" or suitable for discussion in traditional environments.

Chapin (2000) also notes in the United States, high rates of teen pregnancy continue to surpass those of other countries, with roughly four of every ten women becoming pregnant before age 20 (p.799). STD rates among young adults are also on the rise (Chapin, 2000). The mass media, including magazines as the one researched for this review, do contribute to adolescents' education and views on sexuality (Chapin, 2000; Larson, 1995).

Kaplan & Cole (2003) review Seventeen magazine's influence on young women specifically, including those of minority decent. Their studies explore the opinions and experiences of young minority women between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, to find out how girls' view their sexuality and the extent to which media including Seventeen magazine influences their views on relationships, femininity and sexuality. The authors suggest Seventeen magazine sends the message to teen girls that self-worth can be acquired through "femininity," a concept the authors found "resonated among all girls regardless of their class or race" (Kaplan & Cole, 2003:149).

This sentiment is echoed repeatedly by other authors (Chapin, 2000; Hamburg, 1992). Far too often studies suggest young women especially learn about sexuality and sex from magazines, instead of from honest education or from tutelage by their parents. The images presented in magazines like Seventeen provide unrealistic expectations for young women. They help perpetuate inequality among men and women as they enter adulthood and then struggle with the same issues they did as adolescents, issues including low self-esteem or achieving the "perfect" body image (Chapin, 2000).

Magazines like Seventeen are not healthy and should not serve as primary sources of information or as role models for children. Children more and more are turning to magazines like this in private (Larson & Kleiber, 1995) suggesting that while sex and sexuality are prominent in the media, they must explore such issues in private, rather than explore them publicly with their family members or other figures that might provide them greater insights, comfort and support.

Images of young women in magazines should not be airbrushed, and they certainly should represent less "perfect" models, and less emphasis on dieting, so that young women do not become victims of poor self-image or unrealistic ideals of what women should or should not look like (Hamburg, 1992). There is much too much emphasis on sex and sexuality in Seventeen magazine, and in other popular magazines targeted toward young adults (Chapin, 2000). These magazines do influence adolescent's development, and their ideas about what is right and wrong, what is acceptable and unacceptable. Because studies confirm these magazines have a profound impact on young girls and boys alike, it is the responsibility of the editors of magazines to create articles and information that is helpful and resourceful for teens.

Consider for example, the recent controversy about the Dove commercials, featuring real women with real bodies and real flaws. If children's magazines were to do the same, there would likely be less unwanted teen pregnancies, fewer eating disorders and greater equality between… [END OF PREVIEW]

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