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Your teenage daughter says she's too old for silly "teeny-bopper" fan magazines, and she thinks she's too cool for American Girl (unfortunately!). Instead she'd like a subscription to Seventeen Magazine. But she's only 14! What's a mother to do?

That was the question I asked myself not long ago, followed by some research to find the answer. Below is the result of an intensive couple of days spent in the world of teen magazines and my recommendations on who should be reading what. I'm a rather strict mom when it comes to media, whether it be print or video, so adjust these based upon your idea of what is acceptable in your family.

The Big Picture

What the magazines all had in common: All of the issues were dated either May, June or July. As a result, there were a lot of bathing suits – The Best Suit for Your Body Type, The Year's Hottest Suits, Create Your Own Suit – you get the idea.

In spite of the summer theme, each magazine promotes sunless tanning and safe sun exposure, which is a good thing. The bad thing? Advertisements. One magazine's editorial content didn't even begin until page 22. Also the ads feature LOTS of skinny, perfect girls. Some skinny to the point of scary. More than one model looked as if she should have been in the hospital, not frolicking on the beach.

Other than that, all of the magazines were loaded with fashion and beauty advice, each featured several true life stories from the merely humiliating to the terrifying and all delved into the lives of celebrities and their careers, boyfriends/girlfriends, piercings, etc. Last but not least, each had its own section devoted to boys. Not FOR boys, you understand, ABOUT boys. How to talk to them, approach them, rate them, understand them, date them, have sex with them and dump them.

Getting Specific

CosmoGIRL!
Newsstand price: $2.99
Cover Celebrity: Mary Kate and Ashley Olson

Features: Be the Girl Everyone Loves. The Art of Giving in to Parents. How to Raise Your Grades. The first one was silly. The second two were very well written and offered excellent advice to girls who are getting old enough to realize that they need to start taking more responsibility for their relationships with the adults in their lives.

Health: All about birth control pills. Hey, they probably ought to learn about them somewhere. If they're too embarrassed to ask their parents this is as good a place as any.

Funniest article: Are You a Pain in the Butt? A cute quiz.

Dumbest article: Best Beauty Products for Your Sign. Does this mean my daughter (Leo) and I (Virgo) can't share our eye pencils any longer?

Web site: http://www.cosmogirl.com

My recommendation: Mature 15-year-olds.

Seventeen
Newsstand price: $3.99
Cover Celebrity: Beyonce Knowles

Features: The one that actual girls would probably find most informative was "Bad Trips to the DMV: What to do if you fail." Most of the others were either fluff or contained information I really don't feel my daughter quite needs yet, such as how to get birth control pills without telling her parents. Lots of pretty detailed information about sex.

Health: Tips on going vegetarian. The teen years are a common time for girls to choose vegetarianism – it's good to encourage them to do so in a healthful manner.

Dumbest article: A cartoon about a girl who takes up mountain biking just to meet boys.

Best feature: Fiction! A magazine that actually promotes reading something besides magazines can't be too bad.

Web site: http://www.seventeen.com

My recommendation: Mature 17-year-olds only (it's called Seventeen Magazine for a reason).

Teen People
Newsstand price: $2.99
Cover celebrity: Josh Hartnett

Features: My Dad's Gone to War. Transgender Teens (this one cracked my daughter and 13-year-old son up for several days – not the intended reaction, I'm sure). 25 Hottest Stars Under 25. Many, many celebrities.

Health: Solve Your Summer Skin Problems. Why Blue is a Happy Color (huh?).

Best feature: The fashion shoots – they use actual girls. It's called model-free fashion, and it's a great idea. Unfortunately, they stick it in the very back, so you have to wade through nearly 200 pages of skinny models and celebrities to get to the real girls. Still, it's a start.

Disclaimer: My sister sent my daughter a subscription to this magazine for Christmas. It doesn't seem to have done her any harm.

Web site: http://www.teenpeople.com

My recommendation:Age 13.

Teen Vogue
Newsstand price: $1.50 (the magazine noted that this was a special price)
Cover celebrity: Ashanti

Teen Vogue was unlike the other magazines in that it was smaller and thicker, about three-quarters of the size of the other publications. There was a lot of fashion and beauty, as one would expect from this mini-Vogue.

Features: Discrimination Against Homosexuals (and Why It's Bad). Who Takes Responsibility for the Food We Eat (in response to the lawsuits against McDonalds by the obese teens). Several main features on celebrities.

Beauty and Health: How to Have Perfect Teeth, Nails, Skin and Makeup. Not much in the way of actual health information.

Web site: http://www.teenvogue.com/

My recommendation: This would bore my daughter to tears. Unless your daughter is a fashion model, or in training for a career in fashion and beauty, leave this one on the shelf. Otherwise, age 14 would be fine. There's not enough substance here to offend, although one recent issue managed to be offensive anyway (see sidebar below).

YM (short for Your Magazine)
Newsstand price: $3.50
Cover celebrity: Ashton Kutcher

Features: Mother's Day Gift Ideas That Are Affordable, Cute and Useful (there's actually a book there I think I'd like). Explaining the basics of the conflict in Iraq, and answers to questions about how to deal with these stressful times.

Health: Yeast infections, sex education (including information on condoms and more).

Best Feature: Chapter two of a continuing fiction story.

Dumbest article: How to Get Ashton Kutcher's Shaggy Beach Hair.

My most embarrassing moment: Not knowing who Ashton Kutcher is.

Web site: http://www.ym.com

My recommendation: Mature 15-year-olds.

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CeReality: 5 Families, 5 Stories, 1 Critical Meal

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