UK Magazine Targeting Pre-
Teens Portrays Girls As Tarts
By Peter Gruner

The launch of a glossy new magazine for pre-pubescent girls, which talks about snogging, has pin-ups of older boys and tips on how to look like supermodel Kate Moss, has provoked the anger of head teachers and childcare experts who warn that youngsters are being portrayed as "French tarts".
Mad About Boys, a monthly magazine which costs £1.50, is aimed at girls aged nine to 12 and includes advice on love, fashion, diet and boyfriends. In the launch issue out now, the young readers are offered the opportunity to "become the new Kate Moss" by posing on the cover of future editions.
Michele Elliott, founder and director of the child protection charity Kidscape, said the magazine was likely to "confuse and sexualise" young children. She added that youngsters are already having to grow up fast enough without what she described as a "cynical ploy to sell magazines".
She said: "Just imagine you are a 10-year-old going skating in the park and giggling about the mysteries of life. Then you pick up this magazine. What do you think? Maybe you should be seriously thinking about boys, wearing make-up and being sexy?
"They dress the young girl up on the front cover to look like a French tart. The kids inside seem to be overtly made-up and overtly sexualised for their age."
Ms Elliot said she was very unhappy with the "insensitive" way the magazine's agony aunt dealt with one 10-year-old girl's weight problem. The advice was to go her GP. Ms
Elliot believes she should simply have been told not to worry about it. Meanwhile, Angeles Walford, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Head Teachers, which represents most of the primary school heads in Britain, claimed the magazine puts extra pressure on young girls to think about boys when they are still relatively young.
Agony aunt Claire Rayner, however, came to the magazine's defence. She said: "Ten-year-olds are about to reach puberty and they are naturally becoming more aware of boys.
"It's not particularly elegant or stylish as a magazine, it is not to my taste, but then I'm not a girl of
10. I don't believe it sexualises young children. It is much more dangerous to deny that girls of this age group start to have feelings towards boys. As for the pinups, what's the difference between pictures of male pop stars and these ordinary boys?"
Her only criticism was the choice of the ultra-slim supermodel Kate Moss as a role model, but she added: "Pre-teen girls are becoming aware of their femininity, although they are still into childhood things. Here is a magazine that recognises these things."
The row follows the revelation that Nottinghamshire mother Chantal Marshall allowed her 11-year-old daughter to have sex because the girl was "bored".
The magazine, launched by children's publisher Planet 3, exploits the so-called pre-teenage "tweenie" market, estimated to be worth £30billion a year. It was devised by a male picture researcher in his late twenties who has since left the firm. The editors maintain it merely reflects interests of preteens. Marketing director Richard Maskell, 43, said: "I'm quite happy with the content. I would never have published otherwise.
"Young girls are interested in older pop stars more than ever before. But instead of stars we use ordinary boys. What's wrong with that? Twelve and 13-year-olds already read explicit magazines for the older teenager, whether or not one feels that is a good idea. You could say that our magazine, at least, is a safer alternative.
"We thought there is a market for nine to 12 or 13-year-olds which focused on a burgeoning interest in boys. We have done a lot of research among children."
An associated website has received more than 500 positive responses, said Mr Maskell. "I believe positive information for this age group can be quite liberating," he added. He admitted the association with Kate Moss was rather "unfortunate" and said that it would not be repeated.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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