Okay, I’ll admit it. I have a soft spot for teenage pregnancy shows such as MTV’s Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant. I have never been 16 and pregnant nor am I teen mom, but a very close friend of mine is 22 with a 3 year old and a 1 year old. (You do the math.) Her children are my god children and I am actively involved with them. In addition to my friend, my sister also got pregnant in her late teens, early 20s and that’s how my ten year old niece entered the world. But I digress.
Last night as I was channel surfing, I stumbled upon the Teen Mom 2 Reunion Special on MTV. Although I didn’t really care for this group of girls, I decided to watch the special anyway. It wasn’t really my cup of tea so I ended up changing the channel. In the brief period I did watch, I began to think about the affect these shows are having on young girls. Does watching a show like Teen Mom or 16 and Pregnant glamorize being a teen mom? Do young girls choose to have babies so soon because of shows like this?
In my opinion, I do think the shows glamorize teen pregnancy a little bit. Although you see the young mothers struggle through their relationships with their friends, families and boyfriends, money, and going back to school, these issues are not explored as throughly as they should. Although the mothers in the show have the support of family, friends, and boyfriends, many teen mothers do not have such a wide support system. Their families kick them out, friends and boyfriends reject and neglect them.(24 percent of all unwed, expect mothers are teen moms.) The mother is forced to feed herself and her child on her own. Because most teen mothers never finish high school, they cannot find a job to buy diapers, food, clothes and pay for a sitter or shelter. (The price of diapers and formula alone is ridiculous). Even those who do finish high school hardly ever make it to college, let alone complete it. According to the Center of Disease Control, two thirds of teen moms don’t complete high school.
As for young girls having babies so soon, well, teen pregnancy was on the rise long before MTV made shows about it in 2009. According to Center of Disease Control, 1 and 3 girls get pregnant, equating to about 750,000 teen pregnancy reported each year. There are several reasons why this could be, but I’ll save that conversation for later. Either way, the statics are staggering.
It’s not all bad news though. Birth rates of teenagers have steadily been declining since the early 1990s. The teen pregnancy rates of Black teens has dropped 40 percent, while it has dropped 34 percent for White teens and 19 for Hispanic teens.
So what can be done to stop young girls who watch the show from thinking that being a teen mom is something they should aspire to be? Educate your young girls. Watch the show with them and explain that most girls aren’t as lucky as the ones shown on television. Talk to them about the importance of abstinence AND safe sex. If they are old enough and express interest in sex, show them how to use a condom and discuss birth control. The more these girls know about sex and the more open you are, the more likely they won’t get pregnant.