Teenage Pregnancy and TV
I remember being in middle school and not fully realizing that teenagers got pregnant, let alone had sex. I knew that we were all doing the first, second, third base things back then but I didn’t know anyone who got pregnant before 18. Then, in 2007, when I was a freshman and only 14 Jamie Lynn Spears announced she was pregnant with her boyfriend, then within a year and half MTV created a series called 16 and pregnant. At the same time four of friends had gotten pregnant with their boyfriends!
Despite the shows and magazines glamorizing teen pregnancy, everyone finding out about all the pregnancies happening to teenagers and what seemed to be an "epidemic" at the time, the show actually helped decline teen pregnancy. Teen pregnancy went down by 5.7% within the 18 months after the first episode of 16 and Pregnant.
According to CNN.com the author comments about two people named Kearney and Levine who searched on google and looked through twitter mentions about the show and how many searches coincided with birth control or abortion. Then they analyzed geographic data and it showed higher levels within the search also increased searches with those terms. As well as that data, they looked at the locations where high viewings took place and found out those locations also had a significant drop in teen pregnancies and birth.
Back in 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that women aged 15 to 19 reached an all-time low of 34.3 births per 1,000. That was 44% less from between the years of 1991-2010! Just by my experience of watching the show I personally couldn’t even bear the thought of having a child at that age, so many of them didn’t finish high school, were constantly fighting with one or both families, the baby daddy’s, etc.
What may have seemed glamorous at first, some teenagers were getting apartments, had help, were “happy in love”, reality set in and flash forward to 2018 with Teen Mom and Teen Mom 2, two of the girls have ended up in jail numerous times. One became a porn star while subjecting her daughter to a pageant and model lifestyle, and others have popped out kids it seems every two years.
Women 30 and older having children rose in the U.S. from 24% to 30% in the same time frame teen pregnancy went down, and numbers also showed that birth rate with women between 40-44 has also increased by 2% from 2013-2014. Within the same time period, most studies had came out about teen pregnancy stating it had gone down since the premiere of 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom. The rates of older women having babies had gone up while more people are waiting to become established and be able to fully care for a child instead of potentially “ruining their lives” in teenage years.
Another shocker, teen birth rates went down 9% in 2016 from 2015 and it keeps going. Is reality television or the media responsible for teen pregnancies? No. While it seems like it may glamorize it, it shows the hard ships of life for them, even well into their mid-20s they still struggle. I personally thought it was raising the percent’s but in reality it decreased it. The shows show the struggle and the sacrifices made so early in life and the consequences that some are and/or weren’t prepared for. It also gave teens the opportunity to learn from others and take precautions and talk about the situations so they would not end up in the same predicament as these “celebs”, which years prior, that wasn’t a common option and it was a taboo subject.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy announced in 2010 that 79% of girls and 67% of boys agree that when a TV show they like deals with teen pregnancy, it makes them think more about their own risk of getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy and how to avoid it. That was at the peak of Reality Television fully setting sail to Teen Pregnancy on MTV. Another study also found that 93%, a whole 93%, learned that being a teenage parent was and is harder than they ever thought possible.
More recently on an early February 2018 episode of the A&E show "Undercover High" an adult student who has a two year son in which she got pregnant in high school with meets with a teenage mom struggling. Also, another adult gets confided in by a student about just finding out she's pregnant.
While the episode may not directly impact teenage pregnancy it shows the struggles both the first adult faced and the student she met with a son. Teen viewers( if any watch) can see first hand from a non-scripted reality show (Teen Mom and 16 & pregnant are scripted at times) about the hardships a teen parent can face, such as the girl living in an apartment with almost nothing it. Just like MTV shows, this episode can be a great beginning for parents to communicate that difficult topic with their teenage children.
- Teen birth rate drops to all-time low in US - CNN
- Births to older moms rise as teen birth rate drops - CNN
- MTV's 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom: Prevent or Promote Teen Pregnancy | Time
Two studies disagree about how reality shows affect teen pregnancy rates. But either way, we really shouldn't be leaving our sex education to MTV.
- Is the Media Glamorizing Teen Pregnancy - Disabled World
Teen pregnancy has garnered significant attention in the entertainment media over the past two years
- "16 and Pregnant," "Teen Mom" shows linked to teen birth rate drop - CBS News
MTV shows lead to 5.7 percent decrease in teen birth rate between 2009 and 2010, economists determined
- Study: '16 and Pregnant,' 'Teen Mom' led to fewer teen births - CNN