Olivia K. Paul
Reality television shows have become primarily popular among teenagers and young adults. The idea of reality television is to primarily entertain its audience; however, this is done in a way that is often dramatized. Certain television shows such as “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant,” promote teen pregnancy as their form of entertainment.
It is no ideal brainer that shows like “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” encourage pregnancy at a young age due to the content of the show, which follows teenagers going through motherhood along with the different experiences behind it. Although some people may argue that the timing of the show “16 and Pregnant” resulted in the sharp decline of teen birthrates, it still has a negative impact on its audiences. These shows glamorize teen pregnancy and its cast members ultimately become “public figures” and “media stars.”
Television Show Statistics on Teen Birthrates
In a recent study about the impact of reality shows and early motherhood, research has found that “16 and Pregnant” was responsible for the influence on teenager’s judgment of birth control and abortion options. According to search activity, there is a direct connection between the engagement on social media and the time a new episode was released. The most important result from the study was that the introduction of “16 and pregnant” and similar shows, “Teen Mom” and “Teen Mom 2” has led to a decline in pregnancy. However, it still promotes sexual behavior due to the content and teenagers who watch it are more likely to experience teenage pregnancy.
According to “America’s Media Watchdog”, “Only 40 percent of teenage mothers ever graduate high school; two-thirds of families begun by an unmarried teen mother are poor” (https://www.mrc.org/articles/16-and-pregnant-no-big-deal). This evidence also connects to how some of the members on the show become stars and celebrities which supports the idea that having a child early can bring you quick fame and attention.
The Diminishing Impact of ‘Teen Mom’
As the media is trying to normalize contraceptives and birth control, these television shows may be diminishing that effect. In addition, another study has found that teenagers who watch the shows have a clouded idea of what it means to actually be a young mother. In the article, “How ‘Teen Mom’ Affects Teen Pregnancy”, the author states “heavy viewers tend to believe that the stars of the shows have an enviable lifestyle, a high income and supportive partners, which is often far from the reality of teen moms who don’t have a camera crew following them around” (https://www.livescience.com/42535-teen-mom-pregnancy-reality-tv.html).
False Reality and Teenagers
The problem with these reality televisions shows is that they are ultimately creating a false fantasy about teen pregnancy which takes away from the concepts of “planned parenthood.” When the viewers watch how the cast members transform into public figures, it sells the scheme that motherhood at a young age is not difficult. Although the shows “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” may have decreased the teen birth rate in the United States, the reality shows still idolize a distorted mindset of teen pregnancy. Not every teenager who watches the show will become pregnant, but the dramatization aspects of the show still encourage teen birth.
For example, see http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2010/1221/A-force-behind-the-lower-teen-birthrate-MTV-s-16-and-Pregnant and http://blog.thenationalcampaign.org/pregnant_pause/2011/11/us-teen-birth-rate-drops-a-dra.php.