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The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal
"Critics say it's encouraging girls to be sexual"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 6 February, 2001, 18:09 GMT
Woolworths bans pre-teen magazine

Critics say pre-teens being encouraged to grow up too fast
High street chain store Woolworths has banned a controversial new magazine aimed at pre-teen girls because of its "inappropriate" content.

The publishers of Mad About Boys, which is aimed at nine to 12-year-old girls, have been accused of portraying them as sex objects.

This magazine is very alarming

The magazine, which features articles on fashion, make-up, parties and a problem page, has been criticised as irresponsible by Michele Elliott, director of children's charity Kidscape.

Retailer WH Smith, which currently stocks the magazine, has yet to decide whether it will withdraw the publication.

'Responsible stand'

Woolworths spokesperson Nicole Lander said: "This magazine is very alarming. Many of our customers are children and we believe that the material within the magazine is not in keeping with the family image of Woolworths."

Kidscape's Michele Elliot applauded the retailer for taking "a responsible stand".

She earlier told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It is so inappropriate to sexualise nine and 10-year-olds. I am very concerned about them being told to wear slit skirts and look sexy, to worry about their bodies."

Ms Elliott said: "Paedophiles always say 'it wasn't my fault, the child was asking for it' and when you put nine-year-olds on the front cover of magazines and dress them up in that way all you are doing is saying 'yes, we are available' and I think that is dangerous."

A spokesman for WH Smith said on Tuesday: "We will be reviewing the situation tomorrow in the light of the current controversy and also looking to see the level of customer demand."

Social relationships

Richard Maskell, marketing director of Mad About Boys, published by Planet 3, said his company had not yet approached Woolworths about stocking the magazine.

He said: "It is very appropriate for their age range of customers, but we haven't even been given the chance to talk to them about the launch."

Earlier he told the Today programme that the magazine was in tune with the interests of young girls.

Girls of that age are becoming aware of their distinctive femininity

Richard Maskell
"It harks back to old notions that if a woman dresses attractively or goes to a bar alone you are asking for it," he said.

He said there was a website to publicise the magazine and act as a place for girls to vote for their favourite boy, which was already proving popular.

"There is no doubt that girls of that age are becoming aware of their distinctive femininity and the importance of social relationships with boys," he said.

But Mr Maskell added that the website was safe to use because it was not interactive.

"There are no chatrooms, it is one-way traffic on the web site," said Mr Maskell.

Ms Elliott said she wondered if most parents of nine and 10-year-old girls would be happy for them to read the magazine.

"I think they have exhausted the market for teenagers and they are now going for pre-teens," she said.

"This is led by the magazine, not reflecting what kids want," she added.

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