By DR MICHAEL CARR-GREGG
A recent survey asked young people who they turn to for advice when they need help and unsurprisingly the generation born with a mouse in their hand, turned most to the internet, followed by parent/s and then magazines.
Not that I needed it but the importance of magazines in the lives of these young people – vindicated my decision back in 2003 to accept the offer to take on writing for Girlfriend magazine’s “Advice” columns.
Despite some disparaging remarks from colleagues, I regarded this then – and still do – as an exceptional opportunity, which would afford me the opportunity to deliver evidence based and hopefully ethical advice directly to over eighty thousand young women – each month – as they struggle with the vicissitudes of teenage life.
The initial response of most people, upon learning that I have been dispensing advice to teenage girls for over a decade is, “Are the questions made up?” To which the answer is no – the magazine receives thousands of emails to its advice columns every week and even the occasional communication by snail mail.
The upside of writing for a teen girl’s magazine is that I know more about Justin Bieber and One Direction than most grown men. But there are some downsides to the role. One is that the moral, ethical and legal dilemmas that our readers sometimes serve up can be tortuous and often require widespread consultation with a plethora of colleagues who thankfully are generous enough to offer their perspective.
After all, what do you say to a 14-year-old who comes home early and finds her mother in bed with a neighbour? Not to mention the 15-year-old who finds her father watching teen porn? Sometimes you just don’t have enough specific details to offer detailed guidance – so you reluctantly have to settle for offering generic advice – usually around accessing help from a trusted adult.
The other problem, which often plays on my mind – is the delay between the time the writer seeks help and the time at which the answers are published. Logic dictates that sometimes the particular dilemma might have resolved itself one way or another by the time an issue hits the newsstands. I take some comfort in the fact that increasingly young people contact magazines via social media and there is a editorial protocol of referring them to Kids Helpline or eheadspace.