There is no denying that shows like “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” are entertaining. When those marathons are on MTV, it’s easy to be seduced by the drama and lose hours of your day (they’re almost as bad as “America’s Next Top Model” marathons). But are these shows elucidating the magnitude and adversity of teen pregnancy, or are they perpetuating the teen pregnancy epidemic that seems to be sweeping the country?
The intention of these shows was, at least originally, to illustrate the hardships that young parents endure and to discourage teen pregnancy. Statistics seem to show success in accomplishing this aim. From 2005 to 2007 there was a 5 percent increase in teen pregnancy in the U.S. but in 2009, the teen pregnancy rate dropped dramatically to a record low (“16 and Pregnant” aired in June of 2009). Of course, this drop in teen pregnancy could be attributed to many factors other than a television show. Still, in a report issued by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 82 percent of teens say the show helps them better appreciate the consequences of unprotected sex and the importance of preventing teen pregnancy.
On the other hand, these shows have made many of these young mothers famous, I’m sure you’ve all seen them on multiple magazine covers. The problem with these teen moms becoming celebrities is that many young girls may want to emulate them. There have been numerous reports of girls intentionally getting pregnant in order to audition for the show.
So which is it? Are these shows improving or exacerbating the issue? We asked some fellow collegiettes™if they thought that MTV’s shows “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” illustrate the hardships of teen pregnancy or glamorize it.
“I think these MTV shows make teen pregnancy ‘good TV.’ I wouldn’t call it glamorization by any means but it certainly makes it look like it is okay to get pregnant at such a young age. Yes, these shows depict the struggles one must overcome, but they also depict many success stories that may not demonstrate the norm.”
Jeralyn Darling, Eckerd College
“Definitely glamorize pregnancy… these girls are celebrities BECAUSE they are teen moms. They are the subjects of tabloid headlines, are probably getting paid to make appearances and do interviews, and are getting plastic surgery with all the money they make from sharing their ‘very real’ experience with the world. I think that shows like this are terrible, especially for young girls who idolize the stars and want to be just like their favorite celebrities. Scary.”
Tracey Gearhart, University of Maryland
“I’m kind of torn on this one because while I do think the fact that any sort of reality show attempts to glamorize certain aspects of culture (jersey shore and drinking, etc.) I can’t think of many people that are walking around and seeing these pregnant girls as idols. I definitely agree that they get a lot of media and tabloid coverage, attend red carpet premieres and all sorts of events solely because they were pregnant on an MTV show, but after every episode I for one am relieved that I am not pregnant/going to have any children anytime soon.I think that perhaps young girls could look up to the success or notoriety that the ‘stars’ get from the show, but I think that MTV overall does a pretty good job of portraying the moms as immature and unready for these endeavors. I wouldn’t call it glamorization, but it definitely sends the message that if this happens to you it’s ok…”
Anna Lourie, University of Maryland
“I think that the initial goal of the show was to show the hardships of a unique situation, but it progressed into highlighting the drama and commercial aspect of the pregnancies, causing girls to tailor their actions to what will get them on television quickest.”
Malena Carollo, Eckerd College
We clearly have some opinionated and articulate peers. Do you agree with them? Be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts on the effects of “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” on teen pregnancy.