There is widespread debate about the appropriateness of teenage magazines and whether or not these magazines are responsible for the sexualisation of children through subjecting teens to information that is not age appropriate. Looking specifically at Girlfriend magazine, there are several positives and negatives to the magazines’ ‘sealed section’ which has led to debate in the mediated public sphere that is the internet.
The intended target age of Girlfriend is said to be 14-17 year old girls (Pacific Magazines 2014), however around 20% of Girlfriend’s readers are between the ages of 11 and 12. Now, I’m obviously not a mother of an 11 year old girl but I am certain that I would not want my young child to be reading about whether she can “perform oral sex if I have braces”. But, sadly, many 11 year old girls are being subjected to this information at those tender ages, they “can learn the latest sex lingo in an eight-page ‘Sexapedia’ sealed section … and delve into the sexual antics of their peers” (Dirty Laundry 2009). This information is all easily accessible, found comfortably next to the Spongebob Squarepants and Total Girl magazines in every supermarket with no restricted access, classification guidelines or content warnings. The front cover of Girlfriend magazine screams out to teen girls with topless pictures of Justin Bieber and photos of their favourite celebrity with perfect hair and flawless skin. These magazines are exploiting young girls’ desire to grow up quickly by throwing information at them that they should not be interested in until they are 15 at the very least.
The editor of Girlfriend magazine claims that it is “a service” to make sure sex is in every magazine, as teenagers are always going to be curious. This statement is somewhat true; teenagers are forever going to want information about sex and what people of their age are participating in. This is where the debate about ‘sealed sections’ surfaces; are these magazines, full of confronting information, helping teenage girls? One issue of Girlfriend noted that 50% of readers are worried about getting an STI, so, clearly the information within this magazine is helping young people who are choosing to be sexually active by offering knowledge of safe sex and medical advice from a qualified doctor. There is also a lot of information about cyberstalking, building self-esteem, body issues and mental health problems such as depression. These sealed sections provide answers to questions that readers may be embarrassed to consult their parents about.
It is therefore the responsibility of the parent or guardian to make decisions regarding what is appropriate for their child and to provide adequate supervision over what their child is reading about. Whilst these magazines do provide useful information, I endorse the opinion that these magazines should feature age restrictions or carry warnings in order to ensure that children are not exposed or sexualised at an age that is too young.
Burke, M. 2011, Sealed Section, image, BlogSpot, viewed 5 April 2014,
Dirty Laundry 2009, Sexualising kids: our social shame, Brisbane Times, viewed 5 April 2014,
Legislative Council 2010, classification (publications, films and computer games) (parental guidance) amendment bill, Hansard Parliament, viewed 5 April 2014,
No Author 2008, SENATE Inquiry: Environment, Communications and the Arts Committee, Parliament of Australia, viewed 5 April 2014,
Pacific Magazines 2014, Girlfriend, Pacific Magazines, viewed 5 April 2014, <http://pacificmagazines.com.au/Pages/Magazines/Magazine.aspx?mid=fe16ab41-1358-4925-b418-96d5d593388a>.
Turnbull, S. 2014, ‘Media Mythbusting: Big Brother is Watching You Week 5′, lecture, BCM110, University of Wollongong, delivered 1 April March 2014.
Winch T. 2008, Let’s stop trying to turn girls into probationary sexpots, The Age, viewed 5 April 2014,<http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/lets-stop-trying-to-turn-girls-into-probationary-sexpots-20080622-2ux2.html>.
YWCA 2009, Sexualisation of Children, YWCA the Power of Women, viewed 5 April 2014,