An Ode To The Teen Magazine
One STELLAR writer pays homage to the content we grew up on
From the age of about 11, I was hooked on teen magazines. In the 90s and 2000s, there were almost too many for a preteen like me to choose from. The top choices in Ireland at the time were Bliss, Sugar, Shout, and of course, KISS.
The magazines were bibles for me, with advice on everything from not fitting in, to parent problems, to boy troubles to discharge and tampons. Plus there was fun stuff, to balance it, like fashion, beauty, celeb interviews, and quizzes. Once KISS became a solid favourite, I bought it religiously throughout secondary school, even getting it confiscated during my summer exams, after I took it out to read when I finished a test early. Then, just as I was getting too old to read them, they all began to cease print. Sugar stopped printing in 2011 followed by Bliss in 2014, and most devastatingly KISS also printed its last issue in 2014.
So what have teens been left with in the last six years since all these iconic influential publications stopped publishing? Well, social media of course. Now on the verge of sounding 100 years old, the internet and social media can be incredible. Teens in 2020 are activists, passionate about climate change, LGBT+ rights and feminism. They also have more space and freedom than ever to follow their passions like fashion, beauty and singing because of social media, and it’s wonderful to see. But as we all know, the internet is an immeasurable place, and while one TikTok video might be a 10-second lesson on allyship, the next could be an anti-vaxxer, climate change denier, or inappropriate or violent video, and then back to a fashion quick-change video. If teens are curious about why their period blood is a certain colour, or what to do about their strict parents, they’re going to turn to social media, or Google, which as all of us know, could result in just about any number of links to different sites, or posts, none of which are necessarily tailored to kids under 18 and many of which aren’t necessarily accurate.
The volume of content teens are getting at such a fast pace is obviously pretty overwhelming but it’s not going anywhere. Now, Instagram, TikTok, Youtube and Snapchat are where teens talk, get their information, inspiration, and sometimes education. And while I’m not suggesting you confiscate a 13-year-old’s phone and make her delete her apps, I do think there is a place and a necessity for teen magazines in 2020. From ‘fake news’ to advice from ‘experts’ who are definitely not experts, teens (and adults too!) can end up consuming a lot of information that is not only wrong but potentially dangerous. I’ve seen ‘what I eat in a day’ videos where the user cuts up some cucumber and calls it lunch and I’ve seen theories about why COVID-19 is fake, this is all on TikTok, used mostly by teens and preteens. With teen magazines, you have qualified, careful writers and experts who have the young person’s best interest at all times.
This is why I’m so glad to see Teen Vogue’s incredible influence as a digital-first publication for young people, educating readers on politics and social issues. And though Seventeen Magazine ceased print in 2018, Seventeen.com’s fun, playful, but always safe, relevant and informative site has garnered millions of readers over the last few years. America has got lots to offer teen girls in terms of informative, fun content, as close to the original mags as makes sense in 2020. But this was lacking in Ireland, though still, in my opinion, very much needed.
That’s why when I heard KISS was coming back online that I was so relieved and happy. I’m sure you can imagine now why I was absolutely thrilled to be offered the role of editor and given the responsibility of creating a modern-day version of the iconic teen bible. Last November, KISS.ie was launched. An online-first version of the magazine. It’s still got all the classic bits KISS had ten years ago, from period advice from a medical professional to problem pages with an adolescent therapist and advice of friends, family, and love. But it’s got a modern-day update too. We sometimes say ‘people who menstruate’ when talking about periods, to take into consideration trans and non-binary people. We say ‘person’ and ‘boy or girl you might have a crush on’ when talking about first kisses and flirting because we know that many many teens identify as LGBT+ and we talk about the environment, sustainability, mental health, diversity, self-worth, and online kindness and safety, in a way that is careful, approved by charities and experts, and with vulnerable and impressionable teens in mind at all times.
We’re not suggesting that we’re going to take over from TikTok or Snapchat and we’re still doing plenty of celeb news (TikTok dancer Charli D’Amelio is the modern-day equivalent of Avril Lavigne in terms of influence btw!) and lots of listicles and quizzes because those teen years are meant to be fun too. But sometimes if a celebrity gets almost ‘canceled’ because of a word they said in an old tweet, or a TikToker opens up about a mental health condition, or an influencer calls out social media trolls, we can talk about it while also using it as an opportunity to explain why certain words are offensive, or where to get help if you also have a similar condition, or about why being kind on the internet is so important.
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Teen mags were always important for the age group, and though they once sat as the basis for all the advice, celeb stories, how-tos and ‘embarrassing’ problems, they now sit alongside other elements of modern teen life, to go more in-depth into the issues that matter, and give them more than a 6-second video on the topics they’re interested in. KISS is for all teen girls (and some young boys as we’ve seen in our readership) for when they want to learn a little more about the things they care about.
As KISS turns one, we’ve seen stories on white privilege and the Black Lives Matter movement become some of the most-read pieces on site, alongside stories about Billie Eilish’s style or how Millie Bobby Brown practices self-care. Teens deserve a lot more credit than they currently get when some people roll their eyes and complain about them using too many filters or never putting their phone down. They care so much about so many different things and are activists, changemakers and curious, while still wanting to learn the latest TikTok dance or read about who Jojo Siwa’s new boyfriend is, and that’s exactly what KISS is for, and why it’s needed now more than ever. If KISS has a special place in your heart and you know a young person who could benefit from the same big sis’ all these years later, point them in the direction of KISS.ie.
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