By Giselle Maldonado
Television shows like “16 and Pregnant” discourage teens from teenage pregnancy because they reveal how difficult, stressful, and overwhelming it is to have a child at a young age. They provide and share stories from young parents who have first-hand experiences caring for a child while still being kids themselves.
These shows are meant to capture the attention of young individuals as a way of introducing conversations regarding pregnancy and lower teenage birth rates by educating viewers on the truth behind teenage sex. Each show follows the journey of different teenagers through their pregnancy and the first few weeks of parenthood. The reality shows highlight the difficulties these young parents have to endure, not just between family and friends, but with continuing their education and finding time for themselves.
According to Time Magazine, a study featured in the New York Times and conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, television shows related to teen pregnancies reduced teen births by about six percent in 2010.
The production of television series like “16 and Pregnant” has created a window through which teenagers like myself could capture the negative results of teenage pregnancies, such as financial instability, lack of support, educational setbacks, and stress resulting from new responsibilities.
As the child of two teenage parents, I have grown with and witnessed the struggles that came with having me at a young age. Since my mother had first-hand experience with teenage pregnancy, she at times would encourage me to watch television shows like “16 and Pregnant” to see the struggles that teenage parents experience. In a way, I grew up watching these shows and at some point, gained an understanding of the difficulties that teenagers like my parents had to endure before and after their pregnancy. I recall feeling sorry for most of these young girls who had to take responsibility for a child alone without support from their significant other or occasionally, their parents. Watching these shows at a young age made me realize that being a teenager is about enjoying myself without having to feel responsible for another life.
These types of reality media shows should be occasionally shown to young adults by parents.
The introduction of shows involving teenage pregnancy provides both valuable and vulnerable insights into topics that most individuals have trouble opening up about, especially teenagers. Shows like “16 and Pregnant” are a form of sex education, as they express the truth behind how negative pregnancy at a young age can be and how difficult it is to overcome setbacks along the way. It also provides information regarding birth control and abstinence.
Some may argue that shows like this glamorize teen pregnancy rather than prevent it, as the cast members essentially become "media stars" whose lives are being documented even after the conclusion of their part in the show in the remake “Teen Mom.” There are concerns regarding the contribution these shows have on the birth rates of adolescents. I believe that these shows demonstrate the reality that teenagers are not prepared nor ready for early parenthood. Viewing these types of media, teen girls and boys are shown the unbearable consequences and negative side of romantic relationships between young parents.
Due to these factors, television shows like “16 and Pregnant” discourage teens from teenage pregnancy, for they highlight the difficulties in taking responsibility for another life while wanting to live out their carefree years.
In the end, the messages and advice expressed in these teen pregnancy shows outweigh any other suspected messages these shows are believed to expose to their viewers.