A Force Behind the Lower Teen Birthrate

[deleted account] ( 11 moms have responded )

MTV's '16 and Pregnant!!!!

For years, MTV has made a living, its detractors would say, peddling rock-star debauchery to wide-eyed teenagers.



But according to a new government study that shows the U.S. teen birthrate falling dramatically in 2009 after a five percent increase from 2005 to 2007, experts say the network may have redeemed itself with its gritty "16 and Pregnant" documentary series, which many teens credit with opening their eyes to the consequences of unprotected sex and early parenthood.



A report released Tuesday by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy shows that parental influence is the most-cited factor by teens when it comes to avoiding teen pregnancy.



But the report also specifically cites the popular "16 and Pregnant" series, indicating that 82 percent of teens say the show helps them better understand the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenthood — and why they should avoid it.



"Entertainment media is one of the nation's favorite punching bags, but we have to acknowledge that when we're talking about teen pregnancies media can be and often is a force for good, and that is particularly true when it comes to shows like '16 and Pregnant,' '" says Bill Albert, a spokesman for the National Campaign. "Some critics say these shows glamorize teen pregnancy, but our survey data shows that's not the case — that not only do they not glamorize it, but teens who have seen it suggest it makes the realities of teen parenthood more real to them."



"16 and Pregnant," which chronicles the real-life travails of teen moms and dads through rocky relationships and the complicated emotional roller-coaster ride of having a baby, first aired in June 2009, becoming a counterpoint to some of the network's provocative offerings. MTV also has a follow-up show, "Teen Mom."



After leveling off in 2008, teen pregnancies declined by 6 percent in 2009, to a record low, according to a Centers for Disease Prevention and Control study released Tuesday. The reduction cut across all ethnic and racial lines, with Hispanic teen pregnancy rates going down by 10 percent, also to a record low.



To be sure, new census figures showed that overall birthrates also slowed as recession and unemployment gripped America in the last three years. What's more, after 15 years of declining teen birthrates, the uptick between 2005 and 2007 may have once again focused parents on the issue.



But while sex talks are almost always uncomfortable between parents and teenagers, shows like "16 and Pregnant" can serve as a neutral bouncing-board for families to talk about issues related to sex and early pregnancy, says Mr. Albert.



"What you see on TV, as a parent, isn't always exactly what you'd want your teen to know or say or see, but it does deflect the conversation from, 'What are you doing?' to more of an abstract, and that can be a good way to start conversations," he says. "The fact is, this is not your parents' sex talk, not a one-time white knuckle conversation, but this should be an 18-year conversation that you're having with your kids."

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Sherri - posted on 12/28/2010

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I disagree Trish you it isn't a schools responsibility. You don't need it at school, the best education should be done at home.

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Alexis - posted on 12/28/2010

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I agree with Sherri, Sex ed starts at home. Thats the only way you know as a parent that your child is being taught what they need to know. I also like having sex ed in schools and parents having access to information as well because not all parents have the facts of sex right either. As a parent you could pick up where your school leaves off and continue educating your children. I do agree with you Trish that as humans we are sexual beings and we need to 'SEE' the outcomes of sex. 16 and pregnant gave a true visual to teens through a medium that teens are interested in...I also belive that this can help show that what your teen watches or is involved with can have a big impact on their decision, like watching a bunch of teen pop stars or friends get pregnant and want to follow suit. As parents we need to be very involved in what our kids are watching and doing a play a large part in guiding them.

Trish - posted on 12/28/2010

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Better sex education at schools. It needs to be explicit. Teens need to be informed of sexual stuff because as humans we are sexual beings. It should show real vaginas, penis' and show child birth, STIs...everything that comes along with being sexually active. Schools hold back too much. I've seen that MTV show about pregnant teens and it makes me sad. Not for the teen girls but for the innocent lives that they bring into this world. We need better sex ed. at schools.

Tah - posted on 12/26/2010

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If I was a teen and saw that show I would beg my parents for a chastity belt. I can see where it makes teens not want to go down that road They see the friends disappear..followed by the boyfriend that they thought would be there forever..or grow up...ha. Then labor is no picnic, no sleep, I mean geez...it should turn anynteen off being a mom too soon.



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Nikkole - posted on 12/26/2010

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And i think the show has helped a little but i think parents should be more involved in there kids life's and talk about safe sex and not just abstinence!

Nikkole - posted on 12/26/2010

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i watch the show sometimes but most of the time i just wanna slap some of those girls and boys lol i get mad and yell at the tv sometimes!

Clarissa - posted on 12/26/2010

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im a teen mom and i like watching the show because i know im not the only person thats doing it. but unlike most young mothers the father has stayed with me through thick and thin, and i am very grteful for that :)

[deleted account]

I've seen the show a few times. I'm glad it attempts to protray the reality. Some of the fathers on that show act like such jerks, not because they're bad people, but because they're still boys. I'm sure this in itself will put some girls off who might have been thinking that the boy who wants to sleep with them with will love them.

Sherri - posted on 12/24/2010

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I also see a ton more parent involvement. So I think that a lot of factors are coming in to play here. The show, parent involvement, waiting longer, and more use of contraception all have key rolls in the rates dropping.

Rosie - posted on 12/23/2010

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an article i read about this in our paper said nothing about the TV shows and attributed it all to the recession. i think that's a load of crap. what teenager actually thinks about the economy and whether or not it would be a good time to maybe have a kid? ii think it's cause contraceptive use is up.

[deleted account]

I love that show but it is really depressing. I'm glad it's on because its gives teens a reality check re: what it is like to be a teen mom/dad. Almost without exception, all the moms think the dads are going to stick around and almost without exception they don't.

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