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Earlier today I was on the internet researching Teen advice sites and came across something that annoyed me. For unrelated reasons, the post was friendslocked, but as the conversation developed, I felt it might be nice to bring it out into the open, not least because it's a partial answer to "What's Pete Pavement doing nowadays?"

So here is what I initially said.

And then I stumbled across the unspeakably gruesome BBC Teens ... oh look, "lads" can look at minging pics, play surf dude and learn more about technology. "Girls" get to find out if their boyf is the best, learn about nature and play what's your idiotic stereotype?. Girls get "fun stuff", lads get "freebies". And so on. Satirists retire, the world is doing your work for you.
Pick of the comments:

I found the category comparison of Girls ="Sex, Love and Life" whereas Lads just get "Sex and Life".
Urgh, what a truly grim website
even as a teen I'd have found that site offensive

So far, the responses have been twofold. There's a nice letter from

Thank you for your feedback to the Teens site. The site is constantly
evolving and we take feedback on board as we go on developing the site.
I'd like to tell you a bit about the website in response to your email.
The site content is produced with the help of audience research and
feedback. The original colours for the site were white and primary
colours, and in response to user testing we changed them to pink and
blue.

Several parts of the website are written by teenagers, such as the
celebrity fan files and the real life stories about events they have
experienced first-hand. We also offer information and advice on a
variety of topics such as bullying and exam stress. And our editorial
encourages girls and boys to respect each other as equals.

Many other topics are covered by other websites across the BBC; One Life
has an area that explores sexuality for example, Sport Academy covers
sport for girls and boys and 1Xtra covers black and urban music and has
its own news. We try to link through to this different content from the
Teens site as much as we can.

I hope that this information shows the breadth of content across the BBC
and where the Teens site fits into this.

Best wishes,
Sarah (Teens' Editor)


And the home page has been updated to get rid of some of the more offensive language . Where there was, "What's your idiotic stereotype? Bimbo babe, Meek Geek or Troubled Youth? Take the quiz..." there is instead that very inoffensive Just17 staple about putting teabags on your eyes, but a little scrabbling around finds the quiz, which is now labelled "Whatever you're into, it's all too easy to get shoved into a category, classed a type, or lumped in with a certain clique. Take the quiz ..."

Pettish overreaction or genuine thought? Probably some of both, I know how annoying it is when someone gets critical. However, the claim that they changed it to support teenagers' wishes is one that bears some consideration. It may well be true; in my work, I find that young people are very quick at excluding other groups from what they're doing, and the most popular choices are boys and girls, because they're a muddy issue; excluding people for religion, race or disabilities is always wrong, but some things (like toilets) are just for boys or just for girls.

But to blame the teenagers isn't really fair; it was an editorial decision to split the entire website along sex lines and to use different language for boys and girls, and to label different content as "male" or "female".

So, where does Pete Pavement, sometime owner of underground comics press Slab-O-Concrete come into all this? Well, he's listed as a contributor; and come to think of it, those cartoons, don't they look like his?

As is standard, when complaining about a website, I took a screen grab, but I probably won't be posting it, I've spent too much time on this already.

Comments

( 2 worms — Feed the birds )
badasstronaut
11th Nov, 2004 10:52 (UTC)
It reminds me of toy shop aisles, you know - the pink one with the barbies and the black with orange slashes with cool big trucks and Darth Maul and everything. But for teenie-agers. What's the equivalent for grown-ups? Magazine racks at the supermarket? Cosmo/House&Garden/WW versus car mags/porno/anglers monthly?

What needs to happen is some sneaky subversive action, like in preschools when they put the construction materials in the home corner, or paint the trucks pink.
rhubarbfool
12th Nov, 2004 02:22 (UTC)
I also got a response from Sarah
Thank you for your feedback to the Teens site. The site is constantly
evolving and we take feedback on board as we go on developing the site.
I'd like to tell you a bit about the website in response to your email.
The site content is produced with the help of audience research and
feedback. The original colours for the site were white and primary
colours, and in response to user testing we changed them to pink and
blue.

Several parts of the website are written by teenagers, such as the
celebrity fan files and the real life stories about events they have
experienced first-hand. We also offer information and advice on a
variety of topics such as bullying and exam stress. And our editorial
encourages girls and boys to respect each other as equals.

Many other topics are covered by other websites across the BBC; One Life
has an area that explores sexuality for example, Sport Academy covers
sport for girls and boys and 1Xtra covers black and urban music and has
its own news. We try to link through to this different content from the
Teens site as much as we can.

I hope that this information shows the breadth of content across the BBC
and where the Teens site fits into this.

( 2 worms — Feed the birds )