Not-So-Fab Youth Mags
When considering all the media that influence our teens, perhaps we give little attention to the print media—next to the Internet, video games, music and television. Despite all this though, teen magazines have never been more popular. Seventeen boasts a circulation of nearly 2.4 million. Young and Modern (ym), in print since 1955, comes in at just over 2.2 million.
Because of increasing popularity in this genre, major publications have launched youth spin-offs. There is Time for Kids, Sports Illustrated for Kids, React (begun in 1995 as Parade magazine’s younger sibling). In 1998, Teen People hit the newsstands with 500,000; within 10 months its circulation hit 1.2 million. (It is now at 1.5 million.)
But what kind of mental diet are these millions of teens getting from this abundance of magazines?
The articles are short, and the pictures are big. Most of what is written deals with trendy subjects that are usually frivolous and superficial. Almost every popular teen magazine will have a behind-the-scenes look at either a famous TV series, a new youth movie or a hot, young celebrity. Articles about crushes, dating, “hooking up” and breaking up encourage teens to get involved in an exclusive relationship before they are emotionally mature enough, which encourages fornication; and they feed young girls’ crushes by including stories and quizzes that will cause them to waste their time on lustful daydreams.
On the other hand, some articles discuss positive, inspiring teens. But these don’t take center stage by any means. Certain articles tackle even deeper subjects—from racism to sexual harassment. But most don’t get to the heart of an issue; they address merely the effect rather than the cause.
Teen People did a story on a young couple who committed suicide because the girl’s parents forbade the relationship, and they wanted to “be together forever.” But, other than discouraging suicide, the article ended before it gave kids any real guidance on a number of other related subjects—emotional maturity, true values in teen dating and real love, to mention just a few.
Also filling up space are stories from teens about their most embarrassing or appalling moments—ranging from the cute to the mean to the downright gross. Then there are the fashion and cosmetic stories, which take the young girl’s focus off developing her mind and on to making her developing body “perfect.”
The Model Look
Within many teen publications are messages about how looks don’t matter. Teen People, unlike Seventeen or ym, dictates that professional models never be used in its photos. Still there are many pictures of celebrities—many of whom are “model” material. Then there are the advertisements that fill up page after page with “beautiful” bodies. Looks don’t matter?At best, our teens are getting mixed signals.
Teen magazine had a two-page spread about 16 different female celebrities and the cosmetics they used. Seventeen went into an in-depth explanation of Jodi Lyn O’Keefe’s makeup rituals. On the cover of the same issue was singer Jessica Simpson, the caption on the inside reading,”For a look like Jessica’s try:…” It then went on with a list of countless cosmetic and clothing products, as if following this simple formula would solve any awkward adolescent’s beauty dilemmas.
Cindy Webb, in the Oklahoma City publication Metro Family, wrote, “Teen magazines are like subtly controlling mothers. Their advice columns say, ‘No dear, of course you’re not fat. You’re beautiful just the way you are. It’s what’s inside that counts. You don’t need those old boys anyway.’ While their features, layouts and advertisements say, ‘Are you sure you want to eat that cookie? You know it will go right to your hips. Try wearing a little blush; boys like girls who have a little color to their face’” (Sept. 1999, p. 12).
Attempt at Spirituality
In an attempt to give youth something that’s not so skin-deep, the teen periodicals will devote many pages to horoscopes and “spiritual” articles. Sadly, these too provide little of value and, on the whole, are terribly misleading.
The March 2000 issue of Twist had a special horoscope spread including a page of tarot cards (12 cards, with a different Zodiac sign on each) that the reader could tear out. Playing with the cards, while following the directions in the magazine, would help the subscriber know her future. J-17, a British teen periodical, has the “Psychic Sam’s Mystic Mailbag”—a psychic who answers teens questions about their future. And on page 48 of its February 2000 issue was a two-page spread, “How Deep Is Your Life?” Half of the spread was taken up by a full-page photo of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi—a Hindu made popular by the Beatles—representing the growing Eastern, neo-pagan influence in Western youth culture.
Here’s Some Advice
Besides the spiritual talk, the cosmetic tips and the articles, it would be safe to say that you could determine the worth of a youth magazine by the advice it gives—particularly in the Q&A sections—since this is the closest thing to “direction” that magazines offer young people.
So what kind of advice are they giving?
Some teen magazines give good advice occasionally. Issues about finding good jobs or redecorating your room are frequently discussed. Teen had a short bit about breaking bad habits and one about organic foods. Twist had some tips on how to get a better night’s sleep and had a sidebar on how to stay safe from stalkers on the Internet.
But on the whole, the advice is shamefully poor—often lacking depth, usually devoid of proper, sound principles of living. These periodicals push the “do whatever you think is right” philosophy, which does not give teens direction.
Questions about sex and dating are perhaps the most popular and most representative of an advice column. J-17, ave a boy advice on how to arouse his girlfriend, saying “Experiment. Improvise. There are no rules, except that you should both enjoy yourselves.”That usually sums up the type of sexual advice given to teenagers.
Advisers will answer questions about condom irritation, masturbation, oral sex, sex during menstruation, without giving any guidelines or guidance—leaving the distinction between right and wrong as a vague gray line that the teen must figure out for him or herself, basing it on whatever”feels right” instead of what truly isright!
Kissing advice is also rampant. Most magazines will try to ease youngsters’ tensions about it. ym wrote a detailed sidebar on “Five Tasty First-Kiss Tips” next to celebrity testimonials about how they like their kisses, topped off with survey results about whether guys like their eyes open or closed during a kiss.
Then there are the major questions that the magazine editors let the youth answer. Questions like, “What’s the difference between love and infatuation?”Now here was a chance for an article of real substance and real education. But the magazine that ran it merely posted head shots of eight good-looking college gents on a page with a short sentence from each quoted below each guy’s picture.
True Education—True Happiness
Many teens today are living empty lives, devoid of any major guidance from their parents (who are usually absent from the home, trying to get ahead in the job world). Left to fend for themselves morally, teens look to things in society—the corrupt media being a heavy influence—for how to live. Part of this unfortunately strong media influence is seen in the plethora of youth magazines on the newsstands. In many cases, some essentially replace the parents—giving very personal advice that kids are not receiving at home. (Some even compare themselves to an understanding big sister.) But no teen magazine will come out and give teens boundaries or absolutes. The “do what you think is right” ideology will not give young people happiness.
Some magazines simply try to entertain young people—showing them a skewed, superficial version of “fun.” But if they were showing teens real fun, would kids be as bored, unhappy and prone to criminal activity and suicide as they are today? If there are going to be millions of copies of youth periodicals on the newsstands, shouldn’t there be some that actually show young people what to do with their lives?
Is there a youth magazine in print that gives young people direction?Is there a periodical for teens and young adults that shows the way to true happiness and fun? Is there a magazine that gives teens real purpose for living?
The answer is, yes!
It is a magazine not afraid to teach teens the truth, despite how politically incorrect it may be. Its articles dare to give proper moral boundaries and absolutes. It bolsters already strong parenting in the home, yet can truly fill a void left in the lives of children with no parental guidance.
The name of the magazine is True Education. It is sponsored by the Philadelphia Church of God (pcg), the same organization that sponsors this magazine. Its goal is to live up to its title, giving young people a proper education in printed form—to help them wade through the vast amount of information they will receive through many other worthless teen magazines, websites, television shows and movies. “A compass in the information age” is its motto.
Yes, these are bold claims. What makes us able to be a “compass”? What gives us insight that other magazines don’t have? The answer is that we are not afraid to give God’s view on every subject. Every article is based on the foundation of all knowledge—God’s written word. That is the basis of a true education.
Because we look to God, we can give proper guidance about dating. We can tell teens that there is an appropriate age for certain types of dating. We can tell them that there is a good age to begin thinking romantically about one special person—and that any sooner will not bring happiness. All on the authority of God’s word!
Because we look to God, we can teach young people that there are things their minds shouldn’t even be considering at their age—honing in on how their minds should really be developing during these formative years.
Because we look to God, we can show teenagers how to have a truly deep spiritual life based on the one true God and Creator of the universe.
So, what constitutes a true education? Each issue contains at least one deep, spiritual subject relating to youth. Also, there is a column to help teens get to know their Bibles better, called “True Bible Education.” A two-page spread, “Trends,” briefly tackles timely, pertinent events relating to young people today—from health tips to media violence to current events pertaining to education.
Further helping teens understand their volatile world is a section titled”The World You Live In.” This column generally tackles one major event or aspect of the news and puts it in terms that young people can understand—educating them in why the world is the way it is and how they can learn from its mistakes.
History is an important part of a true education. That’s why every issue includes a two-page “Lessons from History” section focusing on the virtues of great men and women throughout history that young people should be cultivating in their character.
Then there is a section where young people can learn lessons from other young people:”Reader By-Line” showcases teenagers’ writings—usually an autobiographical article that contains a good lesson.
Other articles, from the pensive to the light, that have appeared in the magazine have discussed violence in schools, the work ethic, travel, sportsmanship, achieving goals, music, proper gender roles, the right uses of sex, and the list goes on.
The pcg is so dedicated to helping the younger generation find its way that it pays for all printing and distribution costs. This quarterly magazine is absolutely free to its subscribers, with no obligation. Ordering information is on this magazine’s table of contents. Write for a free one-year subscription (four issues) to the only magazine that can give young people a true education.