This post probably sounds silly. You’re probably thinking “Why would I ever watch that show? It just glorifies teen motherhood and made celebrities out of a few young women for having kids before they were prepared to,”.
Well, you’re right! The 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom franchise that has been produced by MTV for more than 5 years now HAS indeed created celebrities out of young, mostly white women for having children when they were still children themselves. This, however, does not mean you can’t use this show as an educational tool.
I’ve watched the recent season of Teen Mom 2 online mostly and with every single episode I watched I kept thinking “My GOD how could anyone watching this want to get pregnant or put themselves in any of these situations?!” I’m 25 years old and some of the things these young women are dealing with (for instance, being married and divorced twice, all while raising three kids and struggling with depression in her early 20’s) scare me!
Take some time to sit down with a teen/tween or even a young adult in your life and really analyze one of these episodes. Look at the problems these young women are dealing with and really, REALLY discuss why they are problems and how they could be avoided! Even the mother who is doing the best on the show at any given time is probably having “baby daddy drama”, whether it’s about custody arrangement or child support.
My main point is this: Teem Mom and 16 and Pregnant can illustrate something a lot of teen don’t really think about- the very, very, very, very long term consequences of our actions. These young women participating in these shows have no idea that parenthood is a LIFETIME commitment and so is the person you choose to have a baby with, whether you stay with them romantically or not.
I can’t say that simply watching Teen Mom/16 and Pregnant can completely convince young people to not have sex or at least not have children before they are good and ready, but I think the shows can concretely illustrate the complexities and consequences of choices and relationships. We’re always talking to kids about sex, and less often relationships, but this show can help a young person really see how different choices can play out across time.
If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to just watch an episode of one of these shows and at the end, try naming two or three things you learned from the episode and think if you would have liked to have learned those things when you were a teenager. If your answer is yes, which I really think it will be, you’ll see my point.