The magazines I read as a teenager, Seventeen, YM and also Sassy (my favorite – under the legendary Jane Pratt), had a direct impact in shaping my worldview. They led me to pursue a career in journalism, and they continue to be a source of inspiration as I work on the Getty Images partnership with Lean In.
Teenagers wrestle with tough issues, and where parents, teachers and mentors misstep (as it happens, even in the best of times), teen magazines step in. They can either peddle the tropes and fluff that unravel young women’s self-esteem or they can be a trusted source of information and a place to challenge convention. They can help young women repicture the world – but only if the people producing them are brave enough to do so themselves. Here, I’ve put together a list of ways I think magazines can instill the latter sentiment in their young readers:
1. Treat readers like they’re smarter than they think. Big editorial features need to have heft and teeth — but really all elements of any teen magazine should. From the advice columns through to the fashion spreads, girls want to be respected. Respect them.
2. Consider the ads. Another beauty product ad? Surely girls are worth more than that. With teenage purchase power topping $819 billion globally, there have got to be other verticals who see teenage girls as valuable customers. Find them. The whole content of teen magazines matters – cover to cover, ads included — not just the parts produced by editorial staff.
3. Be visually literate. Pictures are the language of our time, so think about the messages being sent by the images you choose. Do the women in them have agency? Are they actually doing something – or even better, leading something? Or are they just decoration — a pretty face to go with a trend piece? Pay attention to what your images say.Share with us the positive ways you’ve seen teen magazines empower their readers. Drop us a comment on social media (Facebook,Twitter and Instagram) and let us know what you think about this topic.
Maria Dal Pan Dias is a writer, editor and mother of two who has interviewed Oprah and covered Burning Man. At Getty Images she helps tell the story of the world’s leader in visual communications and the great people who bring it to life.