Teen mags blamed for sexualising girls

Teenage magazine publishers have been blamed for sexualising their young readers by the Government’s consumer watchdog.

Ed Mayo, chief executive of Consumer Focus, said parents would be shocked at the content of the magazines, which are read by children as young as ten or eleven.

Campaigners say the “normalisation” of the magazines’ sexual ethos has contributed to soaring teenage pregnancy rates, warning that the current regulatory system is “toothless”.

The latest edition of Sugar magazine, with an average reader age of 14, features a spread entitled “Is it a crush or are you gay?”.

Bliss magazine, whose average reader is 15 years old, has previously invited girls to send in photographs of themselves to be judged on looks in a competition called “How Sexy Am I?”.

A study of the magazines conducted by The Sunday Telegraph found that they contained sexually explicit material that could be in breach of industry guidelines.

The magazine industry is self-regulated, with the Teenage Magazine Arbitration Panel (TMAP) existing to ensure that “the sexual content of teenage magazines is presented in a responsible and appropriate manner”.

Its chairman, Dr Fleur Fisher, said: “Any complaints we receive from readers are carefully checked against our guidelines, and we respond accordingly.”

However, critics argue that few parents are aware of the TMAP, which has ruled on just three complaints since it was launched in 1996. In the past three years it has only received one complaint.

Mr Mayo said: “There is no doubt that some of these magazines are responsible for the early sexualisation of children.”

Sue Palmer, an educational consultant and the author of Toxic Childhood, said: “The reality is that children as young as 10 read these magazines, and what they are being exposed to is often horrific and entirely inappropriate.

“The very blatantly sexual ethos expressed in them is becoming normalised among young girls. Then we wonder why we have such high teenage pregnancy rates and a booming ladette culture.”

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