The Death of the Tweenager

Imogen Simmonds

The term tweenager refers to a period in life that centralises around change, growth, experimentation and self-discovery. Often reflected on as the ‘awkward stage’, the tween years are the pre-adolescent stages. Imogen Simmonds explores how in the age of social media domination, children appear to be jumping into adulthood quicker than earlier generations.

The consumerism culture of social media encourages investing in new and increasingly expensive skincare, makeup and fashion. Due to the nature of apps such as TikTok, preteens are receiving the same marketing as adult women.  As such, luxury makeup is on the Christmas list of tweens, just as often as it is requested by twenty-somethings.

It appears that girls, more so than boys, are skipping over the tween years and presenting themselves as young women, even if they are merely on the brink of puberty. This can largely be attributed to the influence of social media, particularly TikTok. The app conquers  over all other forms of social media and has instigated crazed trends in fashion, skincare and makeup. 

For example, recently, the benefits of retinol have been highly discussed and praised among skincare gurus. Consequently, impressionable tweens have embraced the trend and retinol is a new ingredient added to their skincare inventory. Retinol is claimed to increase collagen production to reduce wrinkles, lines and plumped skin. The irony of tweens using this ingredient is clear; it is also likely that the strong acids and fragrances in the product are actually harmful towards a younger skin barrier leading to irritation and contact allergies

Additionally, the skincare brand Drunk Elephant reveals the influence the media has on young people. Viral videos depict their products having been combined and ruined, largely because the product’s packaging is ‘fun’ with twisting caps, pushing buttons and neon colours. Does this reveal the presence of tweens in the skincare business? Furthermore, social media apps may permit the early sexualisation of young girls through a lack of age restrictions, facial filters of clear skin and suggestive dance trends. 

They miss out on the time to make awkward mistakes and to experiment with their interests

When I reflect on my middle-school self, I struggle to look at my choices with anything other than mild mortification, from my frizzy ponytails to my overly dark eyebrows and mismatched clothes. However, at the time, it was my first experience with experimenting with my style. Tweens today are exposed to the idea of maintaining perfection and the pressure to follow expensive trends. They miss out on the time to make awkward mistakes and to experiment with their interests. These are chosen for them and dictated by social media trends.

‘Pretty privilege’ is a term that refers to the benefits that conventionally attractive people receive. The social media example of this is the millions of likes and comments that ‘prettier’ girls receive, even on the simplest of videos. Young girls are susceptible to recognising that beauty equals success, which is just another factor for the rush towards perfection rather than accepting the awkward mistakes and experimentation of being a preteen.

A recent trend amongst adult women is the incorporation of bows. This can be into hairstyles, clothing and even tattoos. Is it a coincidence that the innocence and girliness of the bow have been embraced by grown women while retinol and luxury brand makeup is adopted by young girls? 

Pressure has always been put on teenagers to behave or look a certain way, to be skinnier, to have clearer skin, and to wear the latest trends

Media influence has been impacting teen girls (and younger) for years. In the 90s, it was ‘Seventeen’ or ‘Teen People’ magazine, in the early 2000’s it was Myspace and YouTube and when I was developing into a teenager, I recall Snapchat and Instagram holding the most influence. 

Pressure has always been put on teenagers to behave or look a certain way, to be skinnier, to have clearer skin, and to wear the latest trends. This may be reflected through trends like the bows as adult women struggle to reclaim a degree of their youth. The difference in 2024, however, is that the age groups that are being targeted are becoming younger. From vibrant makeup packaging to vapes shaped like ice lollies, it appears that businesses are attempting to increase clientele through appealing to children. 

Imogen Simmonds

Featured image courtesy of Nappy via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In article image 1 courtesy of @drunkelephant via No changes were made to this image. 

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