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Our society still seems confused about what to think about children and young people. It seems to be gripped with a fear of children, blaming them for much of society’s ills: crime, vandalism, drugs, drink, sex, teenage pregnancy. The list goes on. But if these theories are true, where do these rebellious attitudes stem from? The obvious answer would be from the upbringing of children, but in my opinion the media also plays a substantial role in the attitudes, behaviour and physical aspects of youth today, in particularly that of young women.

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We are constantly being bombarded with advertising, opinions, images and stories which appear to be forcing us to conform to a specific image of how we are supposed to be, whether it be thinner, more intelligent or prettier, and no matter how much we try to persuade ourselves that we are in no way affected by such marketing ploys and television programmes, everyone is in some way influenced by the media. These days we cannot escape the constant media attack, whether it be from television, radio, magazines, newspapers or the Internet. Two of the biggest manipulative mediums are television and magazines.

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With the huge the market for ‘teen mags’, it seems that the choice is endless. Yet they all have the same role, which is to sell to teenagers. Not just products but these magazines are also selling us the “perfect” figure, the “perfect” man and the “perfect” life. Many use their control over young people to promote the awareness of issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancies and bullying and countless magazines boast that they encourage their readers to be individuals, that “size doesn’t matter” and you don’t have to be in with the cool crowd to be happy. But to what extent are these claims true?

The most common cry from magazines is that everyone is different sizes and we should be happy with who we are and steer away from dieting, yet many still use skinny models to model the latest fashions. Constant exposure to these very thin models and celebrities, for example Victoria Beckham and Geri Halliwell, are thought to encourage a desire to be thin in even the youngest of children. This can lead to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

“A study, carried out by psychologists at Surrey University and Melbourne University, Australia, provides alarming evidence that poor body image – a factor in harmful dieting – begins well before puberty.” (B.Marsh, Daily Mail, June 02) ‘Girls can be whatever they want to be as long as they are beautiful when they grow up’ This is the message the popular ‘Barbie’ doll has been pushing on to youth since 1959.

When Barbie first hit the market, the creator, Ruth Handler, stated that she wanted to make the perfect role model for her children, Barbie and Ken. Parents everywhere ripped open their wallets and stampeded into shops, eating up the concept. Today although the general idea behind Barbie dolls has changed, the influence still remains. Barbie was unleashed to the world in a revealing swimming costume, wearing make up and fully accessorized. With her ruby red lips, plucked eyebrows and pretty ponytail, she became the icon to many young girls.

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Kylie Garcia

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