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Health: Sorted or not?; Teen magazines don't pull their punches but could they have a damaging effect? PAUL ENGLISH reports.

Byline: PAUL ENGLISH

IT WAS the late American comedian Milton Berle who said: ''Isn't it amazing? One day you look at your phone bill and realise your children are teenagers.''

And American writer PJ O'Rourke reasoned that you know your children are growing up when they stop asking you where they came from and refuse to tell you where they're going.

Stroppy, ungrateful, unhelpful, messy and smelly teenagers today frequently get a bad press as they wade through adolescence dramas, battling acne, exams, mood swings and phone bill accusations.

In a few short years, so the cliches go, they morph from cute, love able children happy to be seen with their parents into bedroom-dwelling cretins, who'd sooner chew their leg off than go into town with mum and dad.

They're powerful consumers too, ruthlessly targeted by retailers wise to their desperation to be seen in the right gear, at the right places, on the right mobile with the right hairdo or reading the right magazine.

There's an overwhelming choice of glossy lifestyle magazines aimed at young adults, with girls and boys as young as 11 targeted by the editors.

J*17, Sugar and Cosmo Girl are regular favourites with the young ladies, while the boys are being wooed by the recently-launched Sorted.

Cover lines on these publications range from: ''Sex! Everything you really wanted to know'' and ''I slept with my sister's boyfriend'' (J*17, current edition), to ''Get sussed about first time sex! Be confident! Be assured!'' (Cosmo Girl, January 04), via ''Win Busted Bog Roll Their Face, Your Ar*e!'' (Sorted, current issue).

It's all just a touch on the racy side. The Beezer and The Beano, boys? Aye, right. Bunty or Twinkle, girls? No way. Get with the programme, already.

Nice and innocent just doesn't do it in the popularity stakes with teenagers. Ask Charlotte Church, a girl who ditched the squeaky-clean mummy's girl look, landed herself a naughty boyfriend, and suddenly achieved media notoriety.

But while it's perhaps laudable for teenagers to be educated in all things adult, what's the hurry?

Should an 11 to 16-year-old boy really have to think about shelling out pounds 59.99 on a Storm watch? Or should they rather be advised to take their ''moose'' girl friend to a club, where there'll be loads of other ladies up for it, if he decides to ditch his facially challenged beau?

And what 11-year-old would escape a stern word from their mother if they said: ''S***. It's Valentine's Day'' as Sorted does on its ''what to wear, where to take her and how to treat her like a lady... or not!'' page.

Child psychologist, Dr Jack Boyle, reckons bold magazines like Sorted and J*17 can have an effect on certain kids. ''These magazines can impact on the vulnerable and suggestible child.

''They might be influenced by things in these magazines which might worry a parent, '' he says. ''For example a feature on marijuana might push a less stable and less-adjusted kid further down that line. But the predisposition needs to be there in the first place.

''There are a lot of factors which shape a teen, ranging from genes, siblings and role models, to where they live and how their parents bring them up.''

But Dr Boyle thinks aiming a mag title like Sorted at such a disparate market could be a costly mistake.

Boys, it seems, aren't that interested in glossy mags.

''The target age group is quite wide, '' he says. ''They are psychologically, mentally and emotionally different from each other, '' he says. ''An 11-year old may not have started puberty yet, while a 16-year-old could theoretically be married. It's not part of the young male's culture to read magazines in the way as young women will read their mother's Cosmo or whatever that comes later for men, with magazines like Loaded and Men's Health.''

However, Sorted editor, 25-year-old Martin Klipp, reckons that's where his fledgling magazine will succeed.

''The reason boys were perhaps not inclined to buy this kind of magazine before, '' he says, ''is because they've never had any before.''

And so what of the language issues? Surely parents' views must be taken into account?

''Well, you can get a PG movie which will have someone say 'Oh s***' in it, '' he says. ''We are careful with the language in the magazine. Parents are entitled to their opinions, but at the end of the day the magazine is aimed at 11-16 year-olds. And the feedback we've had from them is tremendous.

''Before we launched, our focus groups found that 11-16 year-old boys across the country wanted more or less the same things music, films, girls and games.''

Jumpers for goalposts? Only if that pullover's from Diesel, mum.

CAPTION(S):

Is it too much too young: With information overload in the media, are our kids growing up too fast these days?
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 31, 2004
Words:812
Previous Article:Health: GP, Dr DEAN MARSHALL says it's time for our kids to shape up.
Next Article:Health: Doc's q&a.


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