16 and Pregnant : Season 1

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  1. Jul 19, 2015
    Teens Helping Teens: The Impact of Reality Television and Teen Pregnancy Rates

    MTV displays the lives of pregnant teens in the reality
    Teens Helping Teens: The Impact of Reality Television and Teen Pregnancy Rates

    MTV displays the lives of pregnant teens in the reality series called 16 and Pregnant, which debuted in 2009. This show gives young mothers the opportunity to bring awareness to the real life struggles of parenting a child while being in the teenage stage of their lives. Each episode stars a different teen as they conclude their pregnancy and endure motherhood. Concluding each episode, the new mothers explain exactly why they wish they had waited to start a family and how their lives would have been different if they did. Following the series premiere of 16 and Pregnant the spin-off Teen Mom debuted. Teen Mom focuses on the lives of only four young mothers and is considerably more revealing of the long term challenges of becoming a teen mother, such as the failure to complete high school, begin or complete college, co-parent with their child’s father and to avoid additional unexpected pregnancies.
    These teen mothers allow MTV to film their pregnancy in hopes that adolescents across the United States will take precautionary measures and wait to start a family. However, the premiere of these two reality series created a great deal of controversy, primarily with parents as they began to question if MTV created this show as a unique way to glamorize teen pregnancies. America watched these teen mothers gain a great deal of celebrity, which caused parents to believe that the youth across the nation would become envious of their fame and consequently make the choice to become a product of this reality. Because of the negative influences that media can have on adolescents many believed this show would cause the focused audience to gain the desire to want to become young mothers, Melissa S. Kearney and Phillip B. Levine released their study “Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Child Bearing” to prove that these two reality series actually contribute to a decrease of teen birth rates in the United States.
    Due to parents and guardians avoiding the discussion of abstinence or safe sex teens are not educated about sex, the proper ways to use contraception, or how to access contraception. The lack of information given to adolescents about sex causes them to become more likely to practice unsafe sex, which contributes to teen pregnancy. MTV’s two reality series continues to provide facts about the effectiveness of the different types of contraception, and also the negative, but realistic information about the decisions teens will have to make if they do become pregnant. Consequently, the teen pregnancy rate significantly declined in recent years. Kearney and Levine estimates that “These shows led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births that would have been conceived between June 2009, when the show began, and the end of 2010. This can explain around one-third of the total decline in teen births over that period.” These two reality series have had a significant impact on America’s youth because it causes the population to become more comfortable with discussing sex and pregnancy prevention. Kearney and Levine discovered that as the millions of viewers watched Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant, there were spikes in Google searches and Tweets made about birth control and abortion, which proves that these shows are influencing adolescents to educate themselves about these significant topics.
    The topics presented on television shows, internet and magazines tend to play a significant role in influencing adolescents in the United States. As the media exposes the public to controversial topics, it can be somewhat problematic because adults and guardians worry that the exposure of sexual content will negatively impact America’s youth. However, MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom proves that the media can be essential in bringing awareness to controversial topics. MTV provides youth who are in danger of suffering from unexpected pregnancies with the negative reality of the situation, which continues to cause many to protect themselves and their partners. Media has positively contributed to a remarkable reduction of teen pregnancy rates in the United States.
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