What will be the right age for your daughter to read Dolly magazine? This is a question I had to answer a lot – publicly and privately – when I was editor-in-chief of Dolly and the answer was never straightforward.
In short? Dolly is aimed at girls aged 14-17 with readers on either side of that core. Do girls as young as 10 or 11 pick it up occasionally? I’m sure they do. Little girls have big sisters. But the magazine is absolutely not directed at girls that young. Never has been. So what is an appropriate age?
Well, it depends on the girl.
It’s certainly true that as an adult, the further you get from a particular life stage (in this case, being an adolescent girl), the harder it is to recall what that stage feels like from the inside.
And I know that since I became a mum and as my children get older, I’m becoming more prudish about sex, advertising and media.
For example, I loathe those giant billboards and metrolights that scream about male sexual dysfunction! Erectile disorders! Premature ejaculation! They’re things I’d rather not discuss with my kids on the way to school.
I also find myself crossly flicking the breakfast radio dial in the car when the announcers are asking callers to phone in and “tell us if anyone in your family has had sex with each other!”. Seriously, that happened to me a few weeks ago.
But I get extremely frustrated when the content of teen magazines is discussed in the same breath as broader media. There is a huge and crucial difference.
And I passionately disagree with the idea that Dolly and Girlfriend should be restricted to girls of a certain age.
According to newspaper reports, The Senate inquiry into the sexualization of children in the media (due to report later this month) is expected to recommend a warning on the front cover of teen magazines, such as “only suitable for 15 years and above”.
Inquiry member Senator Stephen Parry told The Age he was concerned that teenage girls as young as 11 and 12 were exposed to headlines in Dolly and Girlfriend like “Can I perform oral sex if I have braces?”
“It seems there is enormous pressure on teenagers to become sexually active at a young age, because from watching television and reading teenage magazines they sense that sexual activity is the norm and everyone must be having these experiences because the media is full of it,” Senator Parry told The Age.