Does the TV show ’16 and Pregnant’ promote teen pregnancy?
Teenage pregnancy is a worldwide problem. According to a study conducted by UNICEF (2008), more than 4 million women in 2008, ages 15 to 19, are victims of teenage pregnancy. Note that UNICEF defines teenage pregnancy as pregnant women from ages 13 to 19. The study further shows that there are diverse factors that influence the rate of teenage pregnancy. One of these factors is inappropriate adolescent sexual behaviour. Wright (2011) explains that such behaviour is greatly affected by the mass media. Accordingly, TV shows could affect teenage sexual behaviour. “16 and Pregnant,” is a TV show that continuously attracts researchers and critiques due to the nature of its media contents. Some people argue that it promotes teenage pregnancy while others argue otherwise. This essay argues that “16 and Pregnant” does not promote teenage pregnancy.
“16 and Pregnant” Does not Show Sexual Acts
According to Wright (2011), a TV show can cause negative or inappropriate sexual behaviour if it presents or glamorizes sexual acts. For example, a TV show that shows nudity will most likely promote inappropriate sexual behaviour. “16 and Pregnant,” however, televises none of such things. In fact, this TV show is a documentary series which highlights the difficulties in the lives of pregnant teenagers. It never had any episode where it showed sexual acts, nudity, or sexual intercourse. What it focuses on are the mental, emotional, and financial hardships that teenage pregnant women undergo; perhaps with the aim of informing or warning teenagers about the realities of teenage pregnancies. In other words, the core message of “16 and Pregnant” is that teenage pregnancy is no good; not only it adversely affects the pregnant women directly, it also adversely affect the people that they are with.
“16 and Pregnant” Inform Parents and Teenagers
The study of Kearny & Levine (2014) supports this view about the intended aim of “16 and Pregnant.” The study focused on determining whether the TV show encourages teenagers to avoid teenage pregnancy by using contraceptives, and if it encourages them to become responsible parents in the future. The study used the social media, specifically Twitter and Google Trends, to look into the changes in tweets and searches that happen from watching the show. An increase in the search and tweet about birth control was recorded because of the show. Their findings also points out to a 5.7% decrease in teen births within the 18 month period from the pilot of the show. This study provides strong evidences for this essay’s argument.
What can be drawn from the study of Kearny & Levine is that “16 and Pregnant” serves as a source of information as well as a means for teenagers to become more aware about teenage pregnancy and reproductive health in general. Rickel (1989) points out that watching TV shows could become venues for parents and their children to talk about sex and sexuality. Such discussions could help teenagers let go of their curiosities about sex. Note that curiosity and lack of knowledge about sex are major reasons why teenagers engage in pre-marital sex, which eventually leads to teenage pregnancies.
The information that we get from TV shows could influence our respective sexual behaviours. We should, therefore, be careful in selecting the TV shows that we watch. We must select those that inform us about the real effects of inappropriate or negative sexual behaviours – “16 and Pregnant” is one of such TV shows.
- Kearney, M. and Levine, P. (2014). Media Influences On Social Outcomes: The Impact Of MTV’s 16 And Pregnant On Teen Childbearing. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series. No. 19795. Retrieved from: <http://www.nber.org/papers/w19795>.
- Rickel, A.U. (1989). Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting. New York: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation.
- UNICEF Malaysia Communications. (2008). Young People and Family Planning: Teenage Pregnancy. Retrieved from: <http://www.unicef.org/malaysia/Teenage_Pregnancies_-_Overview.pdf.>.
- Wright, P.J. (2011). Mass Media Effects of Youth Sexual Behaviour: Assessing the Cliam for Causality. Retrieved from: <http://www.indiana.edu/~telecom/people/faculty/wright/Mass_Media_Effects_on_Youth_Sexual_Behavior.pdf>.
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