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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Implications of "16 and Pregnant"

I'm not normally a huge fan of reality shows on MTV, I find them pointless and vapid. So when I was strolling through channels and came across their new show "16 and Pregnant," I just kept going because I expected it to just be another shallow show. But when I saw this blog post, I became more interested in it. Right now I've seen 2 out of the 3 shows that have aired.

The show is actually pretty decent. It doesn't romanticize teen pregnancy too much (like shows like "The Secret Life of the American Teenager"). "16 and Pregnant" shows many of the struggles that teenagers go through when they are pregnant. MTV has even created a partner website for the show called It's Your Sex Life (IYSL). While not complete, this website has some good information on how to talk with your partner about sex, staying protected, and getting tested.

"16 and Pregnant" (at least the 2 episodes I've seen of it) have dealt with the reactions of friends when they found out the girl was pregnant, father's of the baby not pulling their weight, absent fathers, trying to make ends meet, attempting to continue education when they have a newborn baby, and so on. However, in each of these two episodes, the parents of the girl (and the guy in the episode where the guy is involved) are supportive and help the teenagers through. This is great! But definitely not the reality for many teen parents.

The show is about teens who have decided to keep and raise their children. There is barely any discussion of the other options that people facing unwanted pregnancy have: abortion and adoption. Many teenagers who get pregnant struggle with these options and making this decision. While I think that it is fine if the show focuses on girls who have decided to keep and raise their children, it is also important to show how and why they came to this decision. By not showing the discussion of other options, it is sending the message that raising your child yourself is the only socially acceptable option.

I can kind of understand not highlighting teens who choose abortion, just because it is such a political issue and they need to keep their audience and advertisers (I didn't say it was a good reason, I just said I kind of understand it). But adoption can be a very traumatic and emotionally stressful experience. I think the show and its audience would greatly benefit from showing the adoption process and what it puts the parents through. This will show the reality for many teen parents and help people who are in this situation with their decisions about their pregnancy.

While I think this show is a great idea and does a good job at showing the reality of teen pregnancy and parenthood when you decide to raise your child, it is not the reality for many teens you get pregnant. It is important to show all of the realities so as to not discriminate against any decisions concerning teen pregnancy. But I am going to keep watching because it is an interesting show.


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