Tuning in to teen pregnancy
Teen pregnancies are on the rise for the first time in a decade. Could TV be partly to blame?
A new report on the increased incidence of pregnancy among teenagers comes at a time when TV viewers have ample opportunity to watch shows about pregnant teens. Some shows, such as ABC Family's "The Secret Life of an American Teenager," make the situation seem, if not fun, at least bearable, and in some ways an enhancement of the teen mom's social life. Others, including MTV's series "Teen Mom" (a followup to last season's "16 and Pregnant") make clear that becoming pregnant as a teen is a gritty ordeal.
Teens, impressionable and otherwise, can also watch the Lifetime movie The Pregnancy Pact, a story inspired by the purported pact among a group of Massachusetts high-schoolers to get pregnant at the same time. The 2007 movie Juno made clear that pregnancy's not much fun and that raising a child is a task for mature people only. And my beloved "Glee" features a pregnant teenager who's none too happy about her predicament, especially since she's been kicked off the cheerleading squad AND out of her parents' home.
Recent research shows that kids who watch shows with sexual content are more likely than others to engage in sexual behavior. But watching sexy shows is different from watching shows about pregnant girls. The latter, I'd venture, are much less likely to titillate.
People have been discussing this issue since well before "Juno" appeared. (Remember 1998's made-for-TV "Fifteen and Pregnant" starring Kirsten Dunst?) I'll add my two cents and hand it over to you readers. As the mom of a teenaged girl, I welcome these shows because my daughter and I can sit down to watch them together and talk about what they mean. She of course finds them riveting, but she's smart enough to put them in perspective without my guidance. If she weren't that mature, I'd be grateful for the opportunity to help shape her understanding by discussing the life of the pregnant teen girl, whether it's portrayed as glamorous or grueling.
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Jennifer LaRue Huget
January 28, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Motherhood , Sex , Teens , Women's Health
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