Television catches on to teen trend: pregnancy

By Mallory Hisler

Teen pregnancy is a popular topic for TV shows, movies and documentaries. Because the issue is generally considered controversial and there is not an agreed-upon way on how to handle it, the media continues to explore it in different ways.

“I know that I can barely take care of myself, and they have to take care of another life,” Austin sophomore Melissa Principe said, referring to the large number of teen mothers in America today.

The media portrayal of teen mothers is pervasive and many people with basic cable are exposed to them on a daily basis.

“Shows on teen pregnancy are everywhere,” said Victoria sophomore Emily Guerra, listing multiple shows such as “Teen Mom,” “16 and Pregnant,” pregnancy shows on Discovery Channel and Lifetime movies.

The problem a lot of people run into is the question of whether the media is helping by portraying teen pregnancy as it is, or glamorizing it.

Well-known cable network MTV has multiple reality shows dedicated to letting viewers see the lives of young mothers. They follow a few teenage girls throughout the country who have gotten pregnant and film as they go though the pregnancy, birth and life thereafter.

The programs have many dedicated viewers who are intrigued by the lives of their peers who must bear the responsibility of taking care of another life instead of just their own.

“I have known friends who have gone through teen pregnancy, and I find it interesting to see what life is like behind closed doors for these girls who deal with this,” Guerra said.

Guerra is certainly not the only female who finds interest in the life of young mothers.

“I think it’s interesting to look into the lives of teen moms, because it is something that I don’t think will happen to me,” Principe said.

Many viewers feel the shows adequately portray teen pregnancy, and even offer a glimpse into just how hard raising a child as a teen can be.

“I honestly think TV doesn’t glamorize it,” Guerra said. “It shows how the girls are struggling to finish school because they have a baby now, or how their parents kicked them out because of having a baby and the girl and her boyfriend are trying to make it when they barely have any money to take care of the baby.”

Principe, though admittedly a fan of the shows, has mixed feelings about how they present the lives of the young mothers.

“There are scenes where they show you the hard stuff, and a lot of the girls say that it is hard to be a teen mom and they wish that they wouldn’t have done it,” Principe said, “but then there are times when you’re like ‘who has the baby and why are they out partying or messing around?’”

Although a large number of people believe the shows give the viewer a truthful representation of teen pregnancy overall, there are many who would disagree with that opinion. Eureka, Mont., senior Abby Gallegos, who helped raise her brother’s two children when his girlfriend got pregnant at 16, sees the shows from a much different perspective.

“They aren’t accurate,” Gallegos said of the shows. “I feel like it’s reality TV and hyped up and ridiculous.”

There are many people who believe that giving young mothers a reality TV show automatically glamorizes teen pregnancy. Just looking around at the weekly tabloids, it is possible to see many of the mothers from the MTV series on the covers.

The instant fame that comes with being on television can be alluring and is what worries those who believe that media attention to teen mothers is detrimental to other teens.

The ideas on how the media portrays teen pregnancy are mixed at best; however, most agree that teen pregnancy is not an optimal choice for a young girl.

“Your life and everyone’s life around you is affected,” Gallegos said.

“I think it is the hardest thing any teenage girl could go through,” Guerra echoed.

Texas is one of the 10 states with the largest number of teen pregnancies, and its rate is 63 teen pregnancies for every 1,000 teen girls. McLennan County’s rate of 61 pregnant teens for every 1,000 is on par with that of Harris County, Dallas County, Bexar County and Travis County, homes to the state’s largest metroplexes with 64, 78, 67 and 54 pregnant teens for every 1,000, respectively.

So as the problem of teens getting pregnant continues to grow close to home, there will also be a growing number of people trying to find ways to fix the problem — be it by attempting to educate them with reality TV shows of pregnant teens, or the censoring of shows of that nature.