Reality television often has the tendency to present an unrealistic view towards issues regarding real life situations. Teen pregnancy is one of the most misleading topics presented on reality television. Tabloids feed off of the shows’ popularity by plastering the pictures of the teens on magazines and online, making them seem more appealing. Teen pregnancy as presented on reality television shows is irresponsible, dangerous and misleading by promoting an unrealistic view of young parenthood, encouraging pregnancy and glamorizing the consequences that result from such issues.
Parenthood is the leading cause of girls dropping out of school. More than 50% of teenage mothers do not graduate from high school. The United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the western world. Bearing a child at any age can be difficult but for teenagers it can have substantial negative effects not only for the teen but also for their families. Since teenagers are mainly dependent on their parents or guardians this burden is pushed back on them as well.
Studies show that 3 in 10 American teen girls will get pregnant at least once before the age of 20. That’s nearly 750,000 teen pregnancies every year and about 25% of teen moms will have a second child within two years of their first child. In some cases, children born from parents who are adolescent will have more behavioral problem and poorer education than those children born to more mature aged parents. Childbearing also costs U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars due to increased public assistance programs, foster and public health care. Despite these unfortunate facts, between 1991 and 2013, the teen birth rate has decreased from 61.8 to 26.6 per 1,000 teens. Although the birth rate has dropped, the U.S. still has the highest birth rate compared to other developed countries. According to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, 82% of teen pregnancies are unintended.
Teen Mom is a reality show aired by MTV that broadcasts the lives of teenagers who are dealing with parenthood. Besides their dealing with parenthood they also have to face the challenges of finishing school, moving out of their parents’ home, finding a job to support their child and possibly their higher education. While these are ultimately real life situations and challenges today’s society has a more lenient view towards pregnant women that are not married. Although majority of teens deal with the same issues once they are faced with having a child there are some pieces of reality television that is not much of a reality which can cause teens to be less concerned with how realistic theses shows are.
Majority of the mothers on these shows have the full support of their parents whether it be finding them a home, watching the child while the teen is working or at school, and even monetarily. Not every parent will be supportive of their child having a baby nor will every parent be willing to assist their child in any way shape or form. Unfortunately it is not common for the fathers of the children to be uninterested in caring for the child or being financially responsible for their child. However, not every father is represented or acts like a “dead beat” father but the way they are represented on these shows does not realistically present the same outcome for each family.
Aside from misrepresenting young parenthood the shows aired by MTV are often criticized of glamorizing teen pregnancy. The “stars” of the show are given extra publicity by having their names and faces on magazines and articles online with things regarding their lives outside of their pregnancy. A study found that the teens who watch shows such as “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” have a skewed idea of young parenthood. Teens who watch these shows heavily are led to believe that the young moms have supportive partners, substantial income and an enviable lifestyle which is a completely untrue reality for other young parents who do not lave camera crews recording their every move.
In a high school survey of 185, researcher were able to link teens who watched these reality shows with unrealistic views of what it is like to be a young parent. The teens seems to believe that being a young parent was easy which might increase the likelihood that they would be less cautious of having safe sex, not being so concerned with the consequences that can stem from unprotected sex.
While talking about teen pregnancy majority of comment and conversations focus on the negative aspects, but there are certain aspects that people can consider when talking about such an important issue. Although teen parents are having a child it does not make them fully mature, this leaves room for the teens to grow and develop along with their child. Having a baby is a life changing thing and often it leads people to want more for not only themselves but also their child. This realization can lead to being more responsible not only with their lives and their baby’s life, but with what they have going on around them such as being employed to support their child and even gaining or continuing their education to make a better life for themselves.
Balancing school with parenthood can be easier than balancing with a career. Since school often has flexible hours, or at least hours you can choose yourself, which allows you to give yourself more time. A full time college student has an average of 12-15 hours a week to take classes, with another 10-12 hours dedicated to studying there would be a max of 30 hours a week dedicated to school work. On the other hand a career takes up at least 40-60 hours a week without the luxury to have such flexible hours.
In young parenthood there are some upsides that can be beneficial to the parents and the child but the cons outweigh the pros by far. Not only does the teen have to grow up faster and have greater responsibility than they usually would they are faced with a lack of socialization. Not being able to hang out with friends, going to prom and engaging in normal teenage activities can cause young parents to feel more alone. After understanding pregnancy from either experience or an actual realistic experience teens will realize that pregnancy is a very serious thing and is even harder when you are young and cannot fully and independently care for yourself and your child.
Unfortunately, reality shows like “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” only show partly what the teens have to deal with and even then it does not amount to the emotional aspects of dealing with such a life changing issue. Despite the seemingly positive results from teen pregnancy, there are more negative aspects in which reality shows try to glamorize which poses more levity to becoming a young parent. Should these shows be considered “realistic” when there are millions of teen parents who know what true parenthood is actually about?