The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Pregnancy A Popular TV Trend Among Teens

Recently, the media has placed a burning spotlight on teenage pregnancy. Attention-grabbing shows like MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom and ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager have been sweeping the nation and garnering high ratings for their respective networks. On Jan. 25, MTV reached four million viewers with Teen Mom 2, leveling it with the popular heavyweight Jersey Shore.

In addition to reaching millions of people, the shows have also transformed some of the young mothers into celebrities. It is not rare to find the shows’ casts on the front covers of popular tabloid magazines or on popular media outlets. The media is molding these young women into “reality stars,” disregarding the fact that they are adolescent teenage mother, and not an object of entertainment.

The media has been blamed for glamorizing teen pregnancy instead of raising awareness against it. It has caused a negative reaction from a community concerned about the kind of influence these shows are having on their young female viewers.

The intentions of the networks remain unclear as to whether they meant to encourage teen pregnancy, provide knowledge and understanding of the topic, or to simply entertain the masses. These shows demonstrate the hardships these young parents go through using their compelling stories and day-to-day struggles.

Although the shows remain realistic to the difficulties that motherhood brings, some still believe that making these young women somewhat famous encourages other girls to follow in their footsteps.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy’s new public opinion poll on the topic states otherwise. From young people ages 12 through 19, most agree that when a TV show or character they follow deals with teen pregnancy, it makes them think more about their own risk of getting pregnant, and how to avoid causing a pregnancy. 

In the same study, only 15 percent believed that the shows glamorized teen pregnancy. Instead, they say it makes them understand the challenges and responsibilities that come with parenting, especially at a young age.

Out of a group of teenagers that watched an episode of 16 and Pregnant, 93 percent of them agreed with the statement:  “I learned that teen parenthood is harder than I imagined from these episodes.” These reality shows and scripted dramas only shed a miniscule light on what parenting is truly like for these people. Each episode encompasses weeks into the one-hour time slot, which is nothing compared to a lifetime.

Today’s generation of teenagers has become somewhat comfortable with sexual content and it can seem negligent for parents to think otherwise. Shows like Teen Mom showcase real life situations and expose viewers to something they may not have been familiar with prior to it. It is difficult for some parents to have discussions on sex with their children and it is often ignored.

It has become imperative for a parent to have these talks with their children because of the ever-present reminders in the media.

Young celebrities like Nickelodeon star Jaime Lynn Spears, and Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol Palin have had children while in the public eye. After Spears was forced to leave the show Zoey 101 because of her pregnancy, it became somewhat of a burden for parents to attempt to explain to their children why the show was taken off the air.

Through the difficulties the girls face on the popular shows such as domestic violence and abuse, some of the glamour has been eliminated from their situation.

Amber Portwood, one of the girls featured on Teen Mom, has been seen hitting, pushing, and verbally abusing her baby’s father, and was arrested because of it. Although most of them end up on the covers of tabloid magazines for negative reasons, young people are not able to recognize that. Instead, seeing the girls on the covers could cause them to aspire to be on one of these shows and get pregnant for the fame. The awareness on the topic such as Sarah Palin’s campaign on teen pregnancy should be encouraged among all media outlets.

The exposure to shows like these should be done consciously and television networks should be more careful. The main focus and overall mission should be to deter girls from sexual relationships at a young age and make them think twice before putting themselves in danger of becoming another teen mom.

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