Are There Negative Effects of Teen Magazines?

By Sara Ipatenco
Mike Watson Images/moodboard/Getty Images

Teens are at a sensitive point in their development. They're on the cusp of adulthood and beginning to think about dating and the opposite sex, but they're also still young enough that they aren't always readily equipped to make the most appropriate decisions about their appearance, choice of friends and activities. Some magazines marketed toward teens include articles that send the wrong messages about body image, friendships, dating relationships and other pressing teen issues, though some magazines also include helpful articles, such as how to be a better student.

First, A Few Statistics

Forty-four percent of the articles published in teen magazines are about dating or sex and 37 percent cover issues related to appearance, notes HealthyChildren.org. At the same time, only 12 percent of the articles discuss topics related to school. About 80 percent of the advertisements in teen magazines are for products related to clothing, beauty and other appearance-related items. Most of the advertisements feature attractive models, which present visually appealing ads, but don't always portray reality.

Teen Magazines and Body Image

Because so much space in teen magazines features stories and advertisements related to appearance, teens can form unhealthy body images. This is because very few people, if any, can live up to the images portrayed in magazines. In fact, 70 percent of girls state being influenced by the images they see in magazines, the Education.com website notes. Seeing the slender models in magazines may make young girls falsely believe they need to lose weight. Boys are also at are risk for body issues. For example, many boys see images of male models and internalize the notion that they need to be muscular and masculine to be attractive, according to a 2006 article published in the "Journal of Youth and Adolescence."

Teen Magazines, Self-Esteem and Unhealthy Behaviors

When teens realize that it's very difficult, if not impossible, to look like the teens in magazines, it can be a blow to their self-esteem. Low self-esteem can lead to frustration and stress about body shape, as well as depression. Low self-esteem can also manifest itself in physical ways. For example, if a teen sees attractive models in magazines, she might put herself on a calorie-restricting diet, which might not be healthy or necessary, HealthyChildren.org notes. Teens, most notably boys, might turn to steroids to help them achieve the muscular shape they want, the "Journal of Youth and Adolescence" notes.

Teen Magazines, Eating Disorders and Sexual Behavior

Reading teen magazines can increase the risk of eating disorders, though this occurs more often in girls than boys. Eating disorders are often caused by dissatisfaction with body shape and weight, and reading teen magazines can emphasize that dissatisfaction. Teens learn about sex and sexual health, which can be a good thing, but also receive tips about when to lose one's virginity from magazines and how to be "hot." The danger is that these articles don't always include all the facts related to protection, STDs and teen pregnancy. Instead many magazine articles tend to focus on how to be sexy and they actually trivialize sex, according to Victor C. Strasburger, author of "Children, Adolescents, and the Media."