Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MTV's 'Teen Mom' Makes For Teaching Moments

Teen Mom- TV Reality Show
From the Kardashians to the Real Housewives of wherever, there's no denying America's fascination with reality television. But much more interesting than what's happening in any of those households is what's happening in the homes of Farrah, Amber, Maci Catelynn, and several other girls who are featured in two MTV series about teen pregnancy.

16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom follow a small group of high school girls and their often feckless boyfriends as they go from being teens to being teen parents.

The point of the shows is to have teens demonstrate to their peers how hard it is to become responsible for a baby before you're really responsible for yourself. Cameras follow the young mothers-to-be as they make tough decisions about their lives, like dropping out of high school, either because it's too exhausting or to escape being gossiped about.

Eventually, the viewer goes right into the delivery room, where laboring mothers sometimes have to mediate between possessive boyfriends and protective mothers. There are no overtly graphic shots, but there are plenty of whimpers, gasps and grunts — enough to give viewers a clear idea that labor is very hard work.

"And you know what's funny?" says Amy Kramer, director of media relations for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a nonpartisan D.C. nonprofit organization. "Pregnancy is the easy part — it's the parenthood that's really, really difficult."

According to Kramer's organization, teen pregnancy dropped about 40 percent between 1990 and 2004, which is good news. The bad news is that the United States still has the highest number of teen pregnancies in the fully industrialized world.

But if these MTV shows have anything to do with it, those numbers will drop even further.

'It Seems To Be Breaking Through'

MTV started thinking about a show on teen pregnancy in 2008, when Britney Spears' 16-year-old sister, Jamie Lynn, announced she was pregnant. A few months later, 17-year-old Bristol Palin became front-page news when she revealed her pregnancy as her mother was running on the Republican presidential ticket with John McCain.

Liz Gately, vice president of series production at MTV, says that when producer Lauren Dolgen pitched an idea for a reality series based on teen parenthood, she thought it could be the catalyst for an intense national conversation.

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