Imagine being sixteen years and rather than carrying books to the classroom, you are carrying your baby. MTV has developed two TV series, which broadcast the pregnant teens’ lifestyles. There are extremely contentious beliefs, which come with teen pregnancy. As such, the television shows of teenage pregnancy are advantageous to the adolescents.
Imagine having to attend classes with your belly showing or with a little crying baby distracting others in class. Imagine watching your friends and possibly the father of your child graduate as you sit at home looking after a child. Imagine missing prom and hanging out with your friends because you cannot stand for long or need to stay at home to look after your child. Teenage pregnancies have always been an issue in every generation, although it was welcome decades ago, in the ls century it has been frowned upon. There had been a period in time where a lot of girls dropped out of school because they got pregnant, some end up losing their lives in the process of giving life or have complications afterwards. There have been various theories and reasoning that have come up to explain the increase in teenage pregnancies such as peer pressure, as seen in Massachusetts with bout seven girls making a pact to become pregnant (Pilkington, 2017), parental ignorance on not talking to their children about abstinence and safe sex, with the most controversial one being that TV programs glamorize teen pregnancies. There have been debates on the effect of these TV programs especially MTV’s production of “16 and Pregnant” and its spinoff “Teen Moms”. There are extremely contentious beliefs that come with teen pregnancy and as such, I believe that these television shows are advantageous to the adolescent.
In 2008, “The Baby Borrowers” aired on NBC where teenage couples were involved in a social experiment that enable them to understand what life as an adult, with responsibilities and children felt like. In 2010, “Dad Camp” aired on VH1 that involved teaching young boys with pregnant girlfriends, the responsibility that come with being a father. In 2009, the show “16 and Pregnant” started airing on MTV that showed the lives of pregnant teenage girls during the 5th to 7th months of their pregnancies and later on aired another show as a spinoff to 16 and pregnant dubbed “Teen Mom” that showed the life of the teenager after giving birth. Various people came out to condemn MTV for airing these shows claiming that they just encouraged teenagers to become pregnant. One such argument mentioned that since these teenage mothers end up becoming celebrities in their own rights, this will encourage other girls to engage in sexual activities in order to get the same attention (Dockterman, 2014).Apart from MTV, there have been various other movies that depict the same, such as “Fifteen and Pregnant” and “Juno” that were and are still very popular among girls. It raises questions on what TV is teaching the young girls and boys, but that does not mean that it glamorizes the issue.
There has been argument that he girls will try to mimic what they see on TV, after all, I getting pregnant will make you famous and you get to be on TV, is there really a downside? In the article, Born to Consume, Kelley claims that MTV is not doing society any favors but just conducting everyday business by finding something that appeals to younger generations and showing it on TV. By glamorizing the teen mons and making them celebrities, it makes it seem as though the pop culture does celebrate teenage pregnancies (Vhallos). This statement was supported by Nancy B. Irwin in her interview as she stated that the TV shows glamorize the idea of teen pregnancy by enabling these teenagers to be on the front of popular magazines and turning them into popular celebrities. A 2012 study based on viewers’ perceptions after watching the show “16 and Pregnant” found that teens who watched this show were more likely to believe that the benefits of teen pregnancy outweighed the risks, compared to viewers who watched other shows (Kemp). It is also saddening to find that there is always a nanny behind the scenes that blends in like a family member and that the mothers do not, in actuality, take care of their kids.
Ever since MTV aired the two shows, according to research, the number of teenage pregnancies has gone down significantly, which proves that the tens do learn something from watching these TV shows. This is because these shows show the struggle of being a pregnant teenager, physically, emotionally and mentally. It shows the exhaustion, the pain and most importantly, the way it turns your whole life upside down. It acts as a warning that pregnant when not ready has a lot of consequences. It is a show aimed at increasing awareness on the teenage pregnancies, the causes and the struggles that come during and after pregnancy (Thomas, 2014).The teenagers featured in these shows, most of the time, express their regret at engaging in sexual activities at such an age.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned pregnancies uses the shows on MTV as lessons for other teens. The campaign and the production team worked together to conduct a survey on the usefulness of the show and the impact it has on the teenagers as well as on their thoughts on safe sex and teenage pregnancies. The poll consisted of a controlled group in collaboration with the Boys and Girls Club of America making the statistics even more reliable.
Bill Albert, from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies, stated that “Entertainment media is one of the nation’s favorite punching bags, but we have to acknowledge that when we’re talking about teen pregnancies media can be and often is a force for good, and that is particularly true when it comes to shows like ’16 and Pregnant,’ our survey data shows that’s not the case – that not only do they not glamorize it, but teens who have seen it suggest it makes the realities of teen parenthood more real to them” (Albert).He added that , in the survey they took, the teenagers said that the TV show enabled them to be able to discuss the issues of sex, marriage, relationships and pregnancy with their peers and parents or guardians.
In the aspect of young girls mimicking what they see on TV, a study was done on various women in the university from all races and backgrounds as well from all the races. It suggested that even though the girls watched the show, they did not intend to get pregnant. Majority of those with this opinion were girls who had been taught about se from an early age by their parents, especially by their fathers. It also showed that girls from middle and lower class families were less likely to engage in unsafe sexual activities as compared to their counterparts from rich families. It also suggested that White girls were more likely to mimic this acts than those from the black, Asian and Mexican communities. This is in line with the strict household rules that are in these families as well as the financial issues.
The show the show depicts teens who struggle with isolation from their peers, the disappointment of their parents, the challenges of taking care of a fussy infant and the burden of not having a father in the picture for the baby (Kemp). Laura says that, with TV shows like these, they act as more of a “birth control” feature that stops the teenagers from engaging in these activities by showing them up close and personal images and situations that they will go through if they choose to engage in unsafe sex (Ouellette).By seeing what is required and the type of responsibilities that will fall upon them, they begin to act more cautiously and think twice before making any major decisions.
These TV shows are used as an alternative to the “abstinence until marriage” campaign that has undoubtedly little to no effect on today’s youth. These shows encourage them to start being responsible for themselves, especially the young girls. They also provide an easier means of providing sex education that is not necessarily awkward and cannot be argue to be ancient. It has made the starting of these conversations and topics easier and the examples are in plain sight. They give them the experience of being a teen mother. It has been seen that as the TV shows air, teenagers have started reaching n contraceptives as well as abortions as they see pregnancies as a bad thing, which is the ultimate goal of the shows.
Summary and Conclusion
In my opinion, after the research I have conducted, it is apparent that there a two sides to the effects of these TV shows. On one hand, it is clear that they do glamorize teenage pregnancy because they often show a care free life for the mother, as well as an opportunity to become models or actresses as they become more famous. It appears as though the teenage pregnancy is very fruitful and the benefits outweigh the problems. The girls are trying to get pregnant in order to get on these TV shows, with encouragement from their peers as they often also benefit from these reality shows. Certain moms believe that these shows are not really reality as they do not show the actual and real struggles that pregnant teenagers go through or even the struggle of a pregnant older woman. They also do not show the actual struggles of raising a child as a single mother or as a woman or girl from a low-class family or with financial issues.
On the other hand, statistics do not lie and the current statistics show that since the show aired, there has been a significant drop in teenage pregnancies and that means that the show has done more good than bad. The show has ultimately made an impact on all the teenagers as well created awareness on teenage pregnancies in the country, in conjunction with the National Campaign on Preventing Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies and finding ways to reduce and eventually curb teenage pregnancy. The show has also opened up platforms for communication on sex, relationships and pregnancies between teenagers and their peers and parents and guardians. The shows act as a warning for careless teens and what kind of future awaits them. It may not seem like it to other adults and people who have not watched these shows, but they do actually have an impact on how they think and act. It has instilled sexual responsibility on these teenagers and made them realize that being careless is not a road or risk worth taking. The shows may be too or unrealistically dramatic, but they get the point across. The point being that teenagers should engage in safe sex (if at all), there are very many disadvantages on having a child at an early age mentally, physically and emotionally and it also shows how hard life will be during and after the pregnancy. All in all, the TV shows are very helpful and beneficial to teenagers.
Albert, Bill. “Teen Pregnancy with Bill Albert of the National Campagin.” YouTube, COMCAST Newsmakers, 29 Mar. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIqFC2iirMk. Accessed 8 May 2018.
Bandyopadhyay, Soma. “Chapter-11 Anemia and Teenage Pregnancy.” Teenage Pregnancy: Problems and Solutions, vol. 5, no. 1, 2013, pp. 129-135.
Dockterman, Eliana. “Does 16 and Pregnant Prevent or Promote Teen Pregnancy?” Time, 13 Jan. 2014, time.com/825/does-16-and-pregnant-prevent-or-promote-teen-pregnancy/
Kemp, Samantha. “Reality TV’s Impact on Teen Pregnancy.” LIVESTRONG.COM, 28 Apr. 2013, www.livestrong.com/article/1001828-reality-tvs-impact-teen-pregnancy/. Accessed 8 May 2018.
Ouellette, Laurie. ““It’s Not TV, It’s Birth Control”.” Reality Gendervision, vol. 5, no. 3, 2014, pp. 235-258.
Pilkington, Ed. “17 Pregnancies at US School after Girls Make Baby Pact.” The Guardian, 26 Nov. 2017, www.theguardian.com/world/2008/jun/21/usa
Thomas, Jene. “TV Shows Promoting Teen Pregnancy in the U.S.” SOUTHERN NEWS, 15 Apr. 2014, thesouthernnews.org/2014/04/15/tv-shows-promoting-teen-pregnancy-in-the-u-s/. Accessed 8 May 2018.
Vhallos, Kelley B. “Born to Consume.” The American Conservative, 20 June 2011, www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/born-to-consume/. Accessed 8 May 2018