The public was shocked when research revealed that MTV’s hit show ’16 and Pregnant’ could be partially responsible for a steep decline in teen births in 2009. With a new season of ’16 and Pregnant’ currently on the air and the recent passing of the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy on May 7, now is a better time than ever to discuss how MTV has been lending a hand in helping to decrease the number of teen pregnancies and births.
The study mentioned above, conducted by economists at the National Bureau of Economic Research, discovered that in the 18 months following the MTV program’s premiere, there was a 5.7 percent decrease in teen births. This means, according to the study’s researchers, that ’16 and Pregnant’ can be credited for one-third of the reduction of teen births in the U.S. at that time.
If you’ve never watched ’16 and Pregnant’ then you may be wondering how a reality show on MTV could possibly be inspiring teenagers to practice safe sex. The show follows teen girls through the trials and tribulations of their pregnancy and the births of their babies. Many episodes, if not all, begin with hopeful high school-age girls who are hell-bent on having their babies and hardly have a worry in the world how they will actually take care of them. Viewers watch as the harsh reality of having a baby at such a young age comes crashing down on each girl. With little to no money, being unemployed or working a low-paying job, still living at home with their parents or guardians, fighting with the father of their baby, and watching their friends enjoying their youth, each girl shows young viewers that having a baby isn’t as glamorous as they may believe.
MTV’s ‘Teen Mom’ takes it a step further by following what happens next: how the girls handle raising their children at a young age, their often estranged relationships with their babies’ fathers, and their struggle to finish school and find employment with a child at home. One ‘Teen Mom’ star, Maci Bookout, was recently given recognition by the Candie’s Foundation for her ongoing efforts to prevent teen pregnancy by educating the younger generation about the issue through social media.
To even further drive home the message, each episode of these programs encourages viewers to visit the website StayTeen.org, where they can find valuable information on contraception, dating abuse, STDs, relationships, and more.
So maybe the next time your teen curls up on the couch to watch an episode of ’16 and Pregnant’ or ‘Teen Mom’ you won’t roll your eyes at their questionable choice in TV programming. These shows may not only be entertaining but educating, as well.
Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing
Study: MTV’s ’16 and Pregnant’ Led to Fewer Teen Births
Mack Bookout Honored for Her Efforts in Helping to Prevent Teen Pregnancy