Schools and parents and not teen magazines are to blame for the pressure girls feel to grow up quickly, a new survey claims.
Forty per cent of girls questioned felt that schools put the strongest pressure on them to grow up quickly, with 25 per cent citing parents and 17 per cent friends. Only 8 per cent of the 416 girls questioned said that magazines were principally to blame and 6 per cent that television was most at fault.
The results, in a survey conducted by the teen magazine Go Girl, follow criticism in the press earlier this year that some pre-teen magazines were encouraging young girls to dress up like "French tarts" and behave in a way that could attract paedophiles.
But despite concern from parents and teachers, the majority of the girls – 54 per cent – felt the amount of pressure surrounding them was acceptable.
The survey, of seven- to 11-year-old girls, known as ‘tweens’, has prompted criticisms from child protection charity Kidscape, however, which branded it "self-serving". Director Michelle Elliot claims the results contradict the views of most parents.
"I know of no parent who says it’s good for my eight year old to go out dressed like a Playboy bunny. These results do not tally with the response you get when you talk to groups of children in the street that are not self-selected. Magazines are desperate to get new markets. They have already completely saturated the teenage market and now they need the pre-teens."
The real pressure on youngsters, she believes, comes from pop idols such as Billie Piper, still only 18 and married to Chris Evans, who appears to have done so much so young.
Go Girl editor Sarah Delmege defended her survey. She said the findings confirmed what journalists knew already. "We are very responsible about trying to make our readers celebrate themselves. We are responsible to parents as well," she said.
"Our readers are better educated, they really care about the world they live in and want to feel they can make a difference. They have a huge sense of justice and are concerned about political issues and homelessness.
"They have evolved in a world full of mass media and are used to technology but they also have all their characteristics." The survey found that 74 per cent of those interviewed regularly watched news programmes and 39 per cent read national newspapers.
Sixty-three per cent had a computer at home, 54 per cent had a television in their bedroom, 42 per cent owned a mobile phone and 4 per cent owned a pager.
By Ruth Addicott