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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 April, 2004, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Magazines 'need age rating'
By Justin Parkinson
BBC News Online education staff, in Bournemouth

girls shopping
Girls are often under a lot of peer pressure
Girls' magazines should come with an age rating to prevent children being exposed to unsuitable content, teachers warned.

Publications purportedly for 14 to 19 year olds - containing sex guides and adult-natured problem pages - are actually being marketed to those aged nine to 12, it was claimed.

Primary school teacher Ralph Surman said it was wrong to "glamorise" sexual promiscuity among children.

Magazines he had looked at included a warning on how to avoid condom-free sex and a story on breast implants that had gone wrong.

'Promiscuous behaviour'

They also often included free gifts, such as "a CD, lip gloss or a plastic alarm clock", which were aimed at a pre-teenage audience.

These ideas are very misinformed. This area of the magazine industry is already very tightly controlled
Periodical Publishers Association
Mr Surman, the father of three girls aged four, seven and 10, told a meeting at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' annual conference in Bournemouth: "These magazines are not the appropriate place for children to learn about sex.

"The normalisation of promiscuous behaviour is completely unacceptable."

Mr Surman, from Nottingham, said children were often given a reading hour during the evenings on school trips he ran.

He added: "I'm taking more and more of these magazines off of young people, particularly girls.

"A lot of parents do not realise what their children are reading."

Better education

Mr Surman and Lesley Ward, a teacher at Intake Primary School in Doncaster, called for a concerted effort by schools and health workers to improve sex education.

Ms Ward said: "We have got one of the worst pregnancy rates among teenagers in Europe.

What they need is a rounded childhood, or they become damaged adults
Lesley Ward
"Children need to learn about contraception, but in a responsible way.

"Girls look at the magazines and think 'Everybody must be doing it'.

"What they need is a rounded childhood, or they become damaged adults. They don't need to know about everything at too young an age. It is very different from when we moved on from Bunty to Jackie as girls."

The teachers said magazines in the Republic of Ireland had become more self-regulated but that sales had not suffered.

Mr Surman, of Cantrell Primary School, said: "We have a certification system in place for films, videos and computer games.

"Why could we not do the same for magazines?"

ATL delegates are expected to back the teachers' proposals after they are debated.

'Unworkable'

The Periodical Publishers Association (PPA) said a certification system would be impractical and unworkable.

Clare Hoban, head of public and legal affairs at the PPA said: "While children wouldn't be able to buy certain magazines, they would be able to buy any tabloid newspaper and book, look at all kinds of material over the internet and watch programmes before the watershed which deal with issues like teenage rape and pregnancy.

"We feel these ideas are very misinformed. This area of the magazine industry is already very tightly controlled."

Magazines were committed to following the guidelines laid down by the PPA's Teenage Magazine Arbitration Panel, which is chaired by a doctor and includes a professor of psychology among its members, the spokeswoman said.

When tackling sexual matters, magazines were responding to correspondence from young people asking for enlightenment, she added.

"They each receive over 500 messages a week asking for information and advice."




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