Teens See Glamour in MTV’s '16 and Pregnant'
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Is a baby shower the new Sweet 16? Shows like MTV’S, “16 and Pregnant” are viewed by teenagers and adults every day. The assumption is that adults watch it to judge teens on their actions, and teens view it to learn from the stars’ mistakes. Or so it is assumed they are doing.
Sadly, regularly viewing "16 and Pregnant" resulted in beliefs, perceptions, attitudes and behavioral intentions that were opposite to the intended goal of “16 and Pregnant” to prevent teen pregnancy (Aubrey et al., 2014, p. 1156). This reality show depicts what teenage couples go through once they have a child, especially their day-to-day challenges. The audience mostly comprises teens who get to get a detailed view of what it would be like if they were to have a child. These teens view this show, only learning that they can make money off having child and also achieve the status of a celebrity.
Teens often are persuaded by social media and technology, and viewing shows like this affects their decision-making process and self-perception. Reality television changes self-perception in a way that makes adolescent girls feel that their way of living is not as beneficial as life portrayed on television. Unfortunately, in recent studies, overall adolescent girls have a positive view on the aspect of being “16 and Pregnant” and neglect to see how life-altering having a child is (Aubrey, Behm-Morawitz, & Kim, 2014, p. 1153). Before watching the show, a multitude of teens had a negative view on teenage pregnancy. This data reflects how oblivious teenage girls are to how reality TV shows are altering their morals and views and how easily they can be persuaded to change their views on serious topics. Also, current studies show that when adolescent girls view the show, they believe they have a low risk of teenage pregnancy (Aubrey et al., 2014, p. 1156). Essentially, the girls think that they are in some way less vulnerable to being in a situation such as “16 and Pregnant” and disregard the seriousness of pregnancy.
Although some say that reality television can be perceived to be educational or informative, the truth is that it masks the reality with a glamorized view. Is this reality real? Shows like “16 and Pregnant” were made to teach teens not to take the risk of conceiving a child at such a young age but they have instead have created success stories. When the show first started, it was said that the intention was to reduce teenage pregnancy rates. Despite those good intentions, they have changed the definition and the stigma of what it means to be a teen and pregnant, and not for the better. The show makes teens want to relate and be a part of that drama, because drama is what most teens are interested in these days. Parents' job to protect their children from all danger. They may not realize it, but reality television is dangerous. Limiting the amount of access can be the difference between life-altering situations in the future and continuing to live the drama-free life as a child.
Desmond Johnson is a participant of Uplift Plus at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a program that seeks out high-achieving high school students who have been historically underrepresented in higher education. His editorial — written for his freshman English class this summer — is among the first in a series of posts by other Uplift Plus students to be published by Carolina Parent. The editorials, assigned by UNC English teacher Moira Marquis, asked students to research a contemporary social issue for young adults and share their findings.