MTV's shows Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant have been vilified on a national stage as glorifying teen pregnancy. Mayors have said the shows can't film in their towns because of the way it "encourages" teenage pregnancy. And yet, statistics released this week reveal something else entirely: Teen Mom is actually REDUCING the number of pregnancies that are happening among teens.
In other words: This is birth control, people. It's the best sexual education out there.
The National Bureau of Economic Research looked at Nielsen television ratings and compared them to birth records. They found that in areas where teens watched more MTV in the period after 16 and Pregnant debuted, the teen pregnancy rate declined faster than it did in other areas where that is not true. Additionally, when the show was airing, searches for birth control online went up. Is that crazy or what?
As a mom, there is NO doubt in my mind that I would use this show as birth control. It really is. Anyone who has ever watched it knows that what it shows is the reality of teen motherhood. It shows the way relationships fall apart, the way dreams become harder to make come true. It shows how school and friendships go on the back burner and how your life is no longer your own.
No one in their right mind would WANT to get pregnant after watching it. Even if it meant possibly getting on MTV.
The truth is, there is not much out there that shows the reality of parenthood. As a mom in my 30s, I have watched the show and related. But I had my fun and my youth and my college days and my selfish days. I would think teens would be struck by seeing how quickly their lives would get handed over to someone else.
Once you become a mom, that's it. That's the end of the selfishness and ability to move around your life freely. If you want to move to Nepal for a year, that sure isn't going to happen if you have a baby unless you also want to drag along diapers and a jet lagged toddler.
Parenthood can wait. It changes everything and no one knows this better than the Teen Moms themselves. Jeanne Sager of The Stir spoke exclusively with some of them when they were in New York on January 13. Leah Calvert says she plans to use the show to educate her own three daughters:
Even though there's things that I don't like or things that's embarrassing, things that I really hate for them to see between me and their father, I feel like [Teen Mom] will show them these are the consequences that happen when you have kids at a young age.
The show speaks to kids at their own level. It portrays the truth about a difficult subject, and it's not made by adults trying to talk down to teens or lecture them. Remember those "flour baby" extra credit projects that tried to teach teens how hard it is to be a parent? Yes? This is better.
If the show only kept running because of this, it would be worth it.
Do you think Teen Mom is effective birth control?
Image via MTV