Teenage magazines praised for role in sex education

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The Independent Online

Frequently criticised for their graphic presentation of underage sexual mores, teenage magazines were praised in yesterday's report for the way they help give young children sex advice.

The report by Ofsted, the education watchdog, said more and more teenagers were turning to magazines for help. It argued that many parents and teachers were inadequate in the way they dealt with adolescent problems. As a result, the range of topics and sensitivities that teenage magazines have to deal with had grown.

Girls aged between 12 and 13, in particular, have moved away from citing their mothers as their main source of sexual advice. The report said: "While many magazines stress the importance of safe sex, some indicate inaccurately a perception that all young people are sexually active. Nevertheless, the problem pages remain a positive source of advice and reassurance for many young people."

Ofsted singled out "lads' magazines" for their efforts. "The increase in the number of magazines aimed at young men, while at times reinforcing sexist attitudes, has helped to increase the balance of advice available to young people," it said.

The watchdog's findings are in contrast to the views of some teachers' organisations, who haveaccused teenage magazines of robbing children of their innocence, adding that manypublications made too little effort to make it clear they were more suitable for older children.

The issue was raised by delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers'annual conference last year. At the time, editors of teenage magazines insisted they took their responsibilities seriously, a comment which appeared to be supported in yesterday's report.

Ofsted warned, however, that "difficulties may arise" if magazines take over complete responsibility for children's moral welfare from their families. Parents, it argued, should be encouraged and aided to play a greater role in helping their children with their sexual problems.

"The decline of parental advice is marked in 12 and 13-year-old girls," the report said. "Parents need to consider whether they are in reality providing the advice and support their children need if they are to understand the potential dangers."