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Armstrong 1 Lisa Marie Armstrong Professor Beth Caruso English 1102 26 July 2012 Pop Culture: Media and

its Effect on Teen Pregnancy It’s no secret that pregnancy has entered houses all over the United States not just any pregnancy but teen pregnancy. Teen pregnancy rates have sky rocketed since the 1990’s, almost becoming an epidemic. Who is responsible though, teens, their parents or something even larger, the media. Pregnancy has not only entered our households in tangible form however media and the overall glorification of adolescent pregnancy has an adverse effect on our nation. The media has played a large role in lives of teens all of the country and shows such as 16 & Pregnant and the ABC Family series Secret Life of the American Teenager have failed to teach our teens the dangers of having a child at a young age and the consequences that come with parenthood. Television has averted itself from programs such as Boy Meets World a show about the American family and a group of kids who all go to college together to programs like Secret Life of the American Teenager a innocent lesson teaching programs program directed to a more advanced audience, shows range from teen pregnancy scares, abusive relationships, drug issues, and cheating and lying friends and significant others. According to Rick Nauret, “Adolescents who have high levels of exposure to television programs that contain sexual content are twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy over the following three years as their peers who watch few such shows.” (Nauret, 1) This begs that question does teen pregnancy and sexually directed television have a direct correlation? The article by Nauret goes on to note a study, ‘“Adolescents receive a considerable amount of information about sex through television and that programming
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Armstrong 2 typically does not highlight the risks and responsibilities of sex,’ said Anita Chandra, the study’s lead author and a behavioral scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.” (Nauret, 1) Not only is sex relevant to teen pregnancy but it’s not teaching the proper information that young woman and men need to know if put into the sad situation. Television does not only do a bad job of teaching the risks but it also portrays an act that has little or no consequence like Nauret says, Researchers from RAND Health say that exposure to sex on television may influence teen pregnancy by creating the perception that there is little risk to engaging in sex without using contraceptives and accelerating the initiation of sexual intercourse.” (Nauret,1) It’s been established that television is a medium for influencing pregnancy in adolescents today. However if television is such a factor how have the networks changed, and what do the shows convey to teens today? The ever famous television show “16 & Pregnant” airs on MTV showing the lives of teens who got pregnant at sixteen. This show was meant to be a realistic portrayal of how being a teen parent basic destroys your childhood and puts a large amount of responsibility and restraint on relationships. Instead of focusing on the child the shows focus on the parents and their drama so as to make “good TV.” According to a free-lance writer Ellen Borza, "16 & Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" glorify and support teen pregnancy. Rather than seeing a glimpse of these young mothers' lives for a brief hour or two, they became permanent fixtures in the celebrity world. They attempt to make their "15 minutes" last, and audiences week after week support them.” (Borza, 2) Not only has the show aired on MTV but these women’s faces are always plastered all over magazines, they’ve become celebrities. Showing that being teen parent can mean fame and attention is giving these young women the idea that there’s nothing wrong with being a teen mother, it’s a good thing. A spin off from the series is the show “Teen Mom,” which shows the
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Armstrong 3 lives of the parents of “16 & Pregnant,” after the first year. This show even more than its supporting series portrays the “drama” aspect of these mothers’ lives. The show fails to focus on the children and how the parents’ lives have changed and instead shows mothers such as Jenelle Evans out partying, engaging in illegal activities and even getting sent to jail. Borza goes on to say, “Other than run-ins with the law, it seems to me that Evans has never gotten into trouble or received punishment for her actions. She continues to do whatever she wants and does not seem to own up to being a mother.” Jenelle Evans is famous for her misbehavior and MTV focuses on it solely for the purpose of “good TV.” This is less than moral teens need to be taught the consequences of teen pregnancy and not all the things they will get away with because of being pregnant. Other media outlets such as facebook have the same effect on teens. One status said, “Birth Control is the way.” (Anonymous 1) This status received over thirty comments in a half hour with teens arguing back and forth about weather birth control is the way. Another status simply attacking the character of person for making a comment about the rise of teen pregnancy said, “Leave all pregnant teens alone ! Im tired of your bullshit! You are not God ! You cant send nobody to heaven or hell ! Just because you a hoe that use birth control dont give you the right to judge others cause you clearly havent looked at a mirror in a while ! Stop with the bullshit & grow tf up ! You in "college" right ? Then start fucking acting like it ! I wont let you disrespect Emily like that she has been blessed with a child not with a loose pussy ! Goodnight ! Im done !” (Anonymous 2). This status went on to receive over thirty-eight comments attacking the young girls status that this was about, the girl who posted the original status eventually came to the conclusion, “I want girls to be informed and take back their sexuality from what the media, and our society has done with it. I want them to go to college and become educated. I want them to
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Armstrong 4 get married to a man who loves and cherishes them and THEN have children so they can enjoy their family and not endure so much stress. My mission is a positive one..whats yours? Calling girls hoes on facebook? That'll leave an impact,” (Anonymous 3). She received a large amount of support with teens saying that they think teen pregnancy is on a rise and it is ridiculous. Is this what social media has come to? Our children are arguing about contraception because their friends and family members are getting pregnant and putting their lives on a halt. The status’ on the popular site are no longer like one college students status, “Going to the beach for the day,” (Anonymous 4), but are now about sex and drugs and pregnancy. Other popular shows on ABC Family geared toward teens are sh excessively attractive teenagers promoting underage drinking, promiscuity, showing both sexually directed TV and other things such as drugs and more. “These shows portray lying, deception, manipulation, and the use of all of the above to get whoever and/or whatever they want, all in a manner that tells the viewer these things are normal and acceptable and come with minor if any consequences.” (Cellery, par.4) The question that is left is whether or not there should be contraception taught in school. The Healthy Youth Act gave schools the option to teach abstinence or teach contraception. The downfall of this is that districts have the choice of what to teach or not to teach so some students are sexually active and not getting the proper education. “What parents, teachers, principals and school board members need to remember is that the HYA did NOT eliminate the requirement for schools to continue to teach abstinence from sexual activity until marriage as the best method of avoiding the myriad of negative consequences associated with early sexual activity. More importantly, the law requires that schools provide parents with the opportunity to review any sex education materials that are being used at their child’s school, and to remove their child from any
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Armstrong 5 and all of the sex education instruction they deem inappropriate. Local school boards also have the ability, under the law, to adopt policies that require parental consent for student participation in any part of the sex education program. In conclusion social media and television have a large effect on our teens view on pregnancy and sex at a young age. What can be done, Parents monitoring internet access, blocking these sexually explicit television shows and talking to their children about sex. Works Cited 1. Rick Nauert, John M. Grohol. “TV Sex Influences Teen Pregnancy.” PsychCentral. 5
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November 2008. PsychCentral 2008. Web. 14 July 2012. < 8/11/05/tv-sex-influences-teen-pregnancy/3269.html>


Ellen Borza. “‘Teen Mom’ Glorifies Teen Pregnancy.” LancasterOnline. 29 April 2011.

LancasterOnline 2011. Web. 14 July 2012.


North Carolina Family Policy Council. “North Carolina Sex Education Requirements.”

16 August 2010. North Carolina Family Policy Council 2010. Web. 14 July 2012


Melissa Henson. “MTV’s ‘Teen Mom’ Glamorizes Teen Pregnancy.” CNN Opinion. 04

May 2011. CNN 2011. Web. 14 July 2012.


“Teen Mom.” MTV. 2010. Television

Armstrong 6 6 Brian Cellery, Arthur Dent. “Dysfunctional Family Television.” Buffalo Hipstar2012. 3

April 2012. Buffalo Hipstar 2012. Web. 18 July 2012

Anonymous 1: Status updated July 21, 2012 Anonymous 2: Status updated July 23, 2012 Anonymous 3: Status updated July 23, 2012 Anonymous 4: Status updated August 3, 2012