I’m sure many of you have watched, or at least heard of, the MTV reality show Teen Mom. The show’s ratings have skyrocketed and it is the #2 most watched television series in MTV history, second only to The Jersey Shore. The show is reaching a huge audience, but not without controversy.
The stars of the show (“typical teen moms”) have been made into celebrities overnight and are now featured on dozens of magazine covers. Many people think MTV and the media are being extremely irresponsible by glamorizing teen pregnancy. Others think that the show sets a good example, showing the consequences of premarital sex. The debate goes back and forth, but with teen pregnancy on the rise in the United States, many want a clear answer about the impact of the media.
According to Family First Aid, the United States has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and births in the western industrialized world. Teen pregnancy costs the United States at least $7 billion annually. Thirty-four percent of young women become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20, and eight in 10 of these pregnancies are unintended. The statistics are staggering, but with all of the sex displayed across televisions everywhere, why wouldn’t teenagers be influenced by it?
According to MTV’s website, “Each episode interweaves these stories revealing the wide variety of challenges young mothers can face: marriage, relationships, family support, adoption, finances, graduating high school, starting college, getting a job, and the daunting and exciting step of moving out to create their own families.” It is true that some of the teen mothers are shown dealing with struggles, but most teen viewers cannot relate to these girls. Many teen and pregnancy organizations are extremely concerned about the impact turning teen moms into celebrities could have on teenagers. “Putting the stars of these reality shows on a magazine cover puts them on the same plane as any actress, singer, or other celebrity,” The Parents Television Council Director of Communications and Public Education, Melissa Henson, said. “It is sending the message to girls that if you get pregnant as a result of being sexually active; you could end up on TV or a magazine cover.”
I must say, I agree. We shouldn’t forget that about a decade ago, the sexual content in the media today would be completely unacceptable. Is it a coincidence that teenage pregnancy rates are higher?
Although the profits for MTV’s hit show Teen Mom are high, the image this show gives the network as a whole is controversial. Is the negative image that could result from this show worth the high ratings for MTV?