Sitting at home, I obsessed over the show “16 and Pregnant” on MTV and followed the weekly journey of four of the girls in the spin-off of the show “Teen Mom.”
I watched the young mothers deal with dating, their babies’ fathers, day care, receiving government assistance and one mother’s journey of coping with adoption.
The show “16 and Pregnant” will now have a second season with 10 new girls. With the second season scheduled to air on MTV Feb. 16, I can’t help but wonder if the program promotes teen pregnancy.
Recently, the Lifetime Network came out with a film that explores the costs of teen pregnancy with a story that depicts a fictional “pregnancy pact” set up using the data from actual news reports about teen pregnancy from June 2008.
After watching the Lifetime movie, I could not understand how the character of the teen mother could possibly be so ignorant toward the facts of pregnancy. I could not understand how any young mother would have thought that raising children would be so easy.
Data released last week from the Guttmacher Institute shows that after a low in the 1990s, teen pregnancy rates increased three percent from 2005 to 2006 (medicalnewstoday.com). The study also showed increased rates of teenage abortion for the first time in over ten years.
The mass media is a great influence on society for worse or possibly for better. Stars like Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers have made headlines with their public pronouncements of sexual purity. The faces of the recent “virginity movement” are everywhere.
Despite the influence that celebrities advocating sexual abstinence may have, teen pregnancy is up. The Obama administration’s 2010 budget eliminated spending for abstinence-only programs, shifting funds to pregnancy prevention education that includes information about abstinance.
The 1990s showed a decline in teen pregnancy. This is a heartening development considering the common hardships that adolescent mothers and their children face, and considering the potential costs of teen pregnancy to society as a whole.
Many believe that the sudden decline was from changes in sexual behavior and changes in contraceptive use, while others claim that the decline was the result of increased abstinence education.
Whatever the case may be, shows like the ones I mentioned are effectively undoing a lot of hard work. Shows such as “16 and Pregnant” are glorifying and exploiting the lives of teen moms and showing how they get along despite their hard situations. The show should serve as a way to promote abstinence and pregnancy prevention, but, considering the climbing rates of teen pregnancy, it seems more like a depiction of motherhood as a typical rite of passage for teenage girls.