Thursday, 18 May 2017

Tween magazines with mighty girl appeal - a veritable minefield of ARRRGH! A ReadItTorial

Straight off the bat I have to say I am completely A) out of my depth and B) completely out of my comfort zone with this week's ReaditTorial.

It stemmed from a conversation about the state of children's magazines, more specifically the "Tween" market really.

I think nostalgia had to be the only reason my wife and I started talking about "Just 17" and "Smash Hits" magazines and the heady pre-internet days where Tweens weren't even a thing, and teenagers were either too cool to read stuff like that, or bought them just for the song lyrics, problem pages (which used to make for some quite harrowing reading) and celebrity posters (look there's nothing wrong with sticking a photo of Morten Harket on your wall, nothing at all!)

We both like the idea of Charlotte regularly reading something "offline" (and the irony of that won't be lost on you as you read on) that perhaps covers music, tv, film, news and current affairs but in a less vapid way than some of the publications we rifled through in the supermarket (I really can't stand plastic tat mags and I'm not exactly in love with anything that purports to tell you the inner secrets of celebrity Vloggers or YouTube / Twitch Streaming superstars either, sorry Zoella et al).

Obviously the fact that Charlotte loves comics means that a regular subscription to The Phoenix has already happened (and hopefully will continue to be done for some years to come - and heck, even if Charlotte goes off the idea I'll be carrying on with it anyway!) We've also really loved Okido and Anorak - both fantastic magazines that stimulate and entertain in equal measure with a great mix of stories and activities.

But the 'other stuff' seems harder. The likes of brilliant factual magazines like "Aquila" and awesome fiction stuff in "Storyteller" prove that it's possible to produce amazingly engaging mags for STEM and storytelling but what of the rest?

We've looked at "The Week Junior" as a really good attempt to fill the gap left by the BBC's "Newsround" mag but are we just hoping against hope that in this internet age, print mags aren't dying out in their droves and that there's still hope for a resurgence of interest in print that might match what's going on in children's publishing elsewhere (ie print kicking digital's ass).

"Shout" magazine was one example we looked at - obviously for girls older than Charlotte. This one seemed to be sliding down the slippery slope of promoting perfect looks, photoshopped faces and a shallow obsession with all things pink. Worse still, it seemed to make huge assumptions that all kids her age spent the majority of their time online, or watching Sky TV series we've never even heard of.

Magazines that promote the cult of 'zelebrity' (sorry, not sure if that's an actual phrase but it's one I've ended up using to try and categorise folk who have somehow become famous outside their YouTube channels) really weren't what we were looking for at all.

The pink! It burns!

At Charlotte's age we're still (hopefully) a couple of years off her discovering the 'joys' of tapping stuff into a search engine and coming up with all sorts of nuggets (or horrors) - but thankfully with two tech-savvy parents, we're already beginning to put all the parental controls and locks into place to ensure that if she ever gets loose on the laptop she's limited in what she'll have access to. So far, if she gets any time at all on computers at home it's always with one of us in the room or keeping an eye on what she's up to. She still loves playing games or checking out MyMaths but obviously this idyllic blissful ignorance of the internet won't last forever.

Back to the mags though and in the end, of the selection we bought for her, it was actually an arts and crafts mag she went for, pretty much binning the others after just a cursory flick through. Our idea of her being interested in something that featured music, movies and TV ended up being passed up in favour of something creative instead. Admittedly the magazine we chose came with a ton of freebie (and probably terrible quality) art materials, but I guess that was a better outcome than I expected.

It feels like for the time being this nostalgic idea of finding a magazine that appeals to her and isn't overtly focused around education or learning really is a pipe dream.

Ultimately the decision will be hers on whether she'll continue with the one she chose but if anyone out there has a good recommendations for girls around 9 that we haven't already mentioned, please drop a comment below!