Believe it or not, there are people out there who believe that seeing magazine pictures of Jamie Lynn Spears (sister of pop singer Britney Spears; pregnant at 16) and Bristol Palin (daughter of former VP candidate Sarah Palin; pregnant at 17) and watching shows like ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager and MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, makes impressionable teens want to get pregnant because it’s soooo cool!!
One of those delusional people is Nikki Lynn Archambault. In her article Tuesday for Examiner.com, Ms. Archambault somehow came to this conclusion:
It’s really incomprehensible how alluring these photos can be to uninformed, impressionable youth. They portray single motherhood as easy or worse yet the trendy thing to do.
Please, tell me, how does this…
In the MTV series each episode chronicles another teen pregnancy statistic as she comes to terms with her condition and makes life-altering decisions regarding it (i.e. to keep the baby or go the adoption route, where does the biological father fit in their lives etc).
…look glamorous or trendy? What is it exactly about “life-altering decisions” that is so easy? I have watched “16 and Pregnant” (and written about it recently) and I didn’t think it romanticized teen pregnancy and motherhood at all. If I were a mother of a teenager, I would want him or her to watch the show, because it shows the reality of the issues (or, as much as can be shown in an hour show) while at the same time not be a scare tactic. It’s just honest.
As for “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” I haven’t seen the show, but I think I can pretty safely assume that it’s not all roses. In a show revolving around a pregnant teenage girl and then a teenage mother, they can’t exactly avoid the issue. I doubt that they portray it in the way that Ms. Archambault is insinuating.
As she says…
It’s still puzzling to us, why the media seems to be engaging in these subtle marketing attempts to advertise single teenage motherhood to our youth. We must think as a society the effect these TV shows and magazines will have on our youth. The youth who all too often emulate the celebrity fueled images thrown at them.
Just because teen motherhood is shown on TV doesn’t mean that they’re “promoting” or “advertising” it like a cool new product. The news covers stories of theft, assault, and murder all the time, but no one is assuming that the news is actually promoting or encouraging those kinds of behaviors to kids or teens or even adults. Talking about issues such as teen pregnancy is important and must be talked about. Shows like those mentioned above are great ways to start the conversation.
Seeing pictures of people like Jamie Lynn and Bristol while pregnant or holding or caring for their babies, I think is also important because it shows that teen pregnancy can happen to anyone. Whether we see them on TV or whether they’re wearing nice clothes doesn’t change the fact for one second that, first and foremost, they are teen moms. Nothing is going to change that. Whether they’re interviewed or photographed or not, they still get woken up at 3 AM by a crying baby. Bristol has said that being a young mother is hard, and that she wishes she’d waited to have a baby. She’s not saying that her life is perfect or easy or that anyone should want to be like her. In fact, she’s encouraging teens to be abstinent so that they don’t become like her.
I think that Ms. Archambault’s real problem is that she believes that when a teen sees another teen pregnant or raising a child, the teen will be so impressionable and so unable to make decisions for themselves, that they will assume that what they see someone else doing must be a cool idea, and therefore go out and get themselves pregnant because “all the kids are doing it.”
That is so deluded. And insulting. Teens are young, yes, but they do have a brain. They aren’t always going to make the best choices, (and neither will adults) but the more honest we are with them and the more we talk about issues that are important to them, the more informed they will be of the reality of situations, and they will be better able to make their own decisions. Hiding teen pregnancy or assuming that any portrayal of it is meant to advocate it will only hurt teens. The more they see it, the more they will understand about it.
Never talking about sex or restricting the conversation to the teachings of failed abstinence-only programs isn’t doing anyone any good. Teens aren’t learning what they need to know, and parents are missing important opportunities to talk to and educate their kids. When it comes to sex, honesty is the best policy. Even if teens want to wait until they are older or until they are married to have sex, why can’t they learn about it now? No parent, as much as they would like to, can have total control over when their kid as sex, but what they do have control over is their responsibility to make sure whether at school or at home (preferably both) that their kids know all they can about sex, pregnancy, STIs, relationships, partner communication, self-respect, and decision making skills.
No logical person would be foolish enough to believe that just talking to your kids about sex would automatically make them sexually active, so why would any logical person believe that seeing images or TV shows about teen moms automatically make them want to get pregnant?
Is it really a surprise to anyone that in Ms. Archambault’s bio on the Examiner, it says that she is “an aspiring science fiction novelist”?
Let’s hope her science fiction makes a little more sense than this craziness.