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Entries in MTV (3)

Thursday
Mar032011

Does Media Spotlight Encourage Teens to Become Moms?

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The visibility of teenage moms has exploded in pop culture. Lifetime's The Pregnancy Pact, the Fox hit Glee and ABC Family's The Secret Life of an American Teenager have explored the subject.

But, without a doubt, today's most notorious young mothers are the stars of MTV's hit reality series Teen Mom. The popular documentary-style show chronicles the highs and often trashy lows of teenage girls dealing with the fallout of diapers, dead-beat "baby daddies" and demanding grandparents.

Pick up any tabloid -- Us Weekly, OK! magazine, Life & Style, In Touch -- and these high school moms are elevated to near-celebrity status. Even Saturday Night Live has poked fun at the trend. In a skit spoofing MTV as "Maternity Television," actress Scarlett Johansson plays a 16-year-old girl partying her way through delivery, screaming, "I'm rich, I'm beautiful and I'm fully dilated."

While teen pregnancy may be exploding on TV, teen birth rates decreased six percent between 2008 and 2009, reaching a new low, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

While that's good news, the United States still has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world -- twice as high as the U.K., and three times as high as Canada. One in six U.S. girls will become a teen mother, and the annual public cost of teen childbearing is estimated at $9.1 billion.

"There is no fear and shame in teen pregnancy anymore," says Michelle Hankins, who runs a Young Moms support group in Rome, Ga. "Seeing all these teen moms in the media, it makes them less fearful. It's desensitized them, there's just an immunity to the shock value of it."

Media critic Jessica Coen, editor-in-chief of Jezebel.com, says when a reality show becomes a popular hit series with multiple seasons, fame is inevitable.

"MTV can be as objective as they want about it, but once these women, these young women, are being followed by tabloids and on TMZ and on the cover of Us Weekly, it's hard to view them as documentary subjects. They're reality stars," she said.

MTV gave a full statement to ABC News:

As part of the filming process we sometimes ask cast members to talk about their stories to provide context and background on what they're going through, but we do not influence the stories in any way -- this is a documentary and our cameras are there to capture real life situations as they unfold.

We absolutely don't solicit and would never knowingly cast anyone who chose to get pregnant on purpose -- that is the exact opposite of the intent of the show.

"16 and Pregnant" is designed to cast a light on the harsh realities teens face when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. In fact, the show has been called one of the best public service announcements for preventing teen pregnancy because it is a gritty, unvarnished look at the reality of unplanned teen pregnancy, and research by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that among teens who have watched "16 and Pregnant,' 82 percent think the show helps teens better understand the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenthood and how to avoid it.


Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Friday
Feb112011

Pregnancy Pressure: Is MTV's 'Teen Mom' Encouraging Pregnancy for Fame?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK ) -- Critics of the MTV show Teen Mom 2 say that the show is encouraging teen pregnancy after three friends of one of the show's young stars got pregnant.

Jenelle Evans, mother of 1-year-old Jace, found reality fame first on MTV's Sixteen and Pregnant and now on Teen Mom 2. Recently, eyebrows were raised when it was revealed that three of Evans' teen friends had gotten pregnant. The pregnancies fueled speculation on the Internet that the teenagers got pregnant for fame's sake, labeling them "copycat moms."

Two of the girls, 18-year-old Keeley Sanders and 17-year-old Lauren Pruitt, said that they didn't get pregnant for fame and didn't enter into a pregnancy pact with one another.

"My pregnancy wasn't influenced by Jenelle. It wasn't influenced by nobody, but the wrong decisions," Sanders said.

Sanders is due next month. Pruitt just gave birth to a baby girl last week.

"I didn't want to put my pregnancy out there, it's kind of more personal to me," Pruitt added.

Doctor Logan Levkoff, a teen development expert, said that even if Teen Mom 2 doesn't glamorize teen pregnancy, there are more examples of pregnant teens in pop culture than ever before.

"The way we bring people, reality stars into fame for really not doing anything has created a culture where it is exciting to be a pregnant teen and the fact of the matter is that most teens who are pregnant do not have the same experience that the girls on those shows have," Levkoff said.

MTV presents their teen mom reality shows as an object lesson for teens in avoiding unwanted pregnancy. Each season, the show follows four teen mothers showing the gritty hardship, both emotional and financial, of teen motherhood. The show is a ratings boom for the network and the young women have become stars, earning six-figure incomes and gracing the covers of tabloids.

"We have our pregnant teens showing up on the cover of magazines, they're getting paid, they're getting endorsement deals and getting calendar deals. That's the message, even if MTV shows all of the hardships, they're still being supportive in so many other ways," Levkoff said.

Their fame hasn't always come from good behavior. Amber Portwood, a teen mom from the show's first season, has been arrested for domestic violence. Evans, 19, was arrested last month for breaking and entering and possession of drugs shortly before Teen Mom 2 premiered.

According to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the teen birth rate in the United States declined 6 percent in 2009. The teen birth rate is now at a record low. Levkoff cautions that the teen pregnancy rate is still very high.

"The number of births that teens are having is the lowest, but we have still in the United States the highest rates of teen pregnancy of any developed nation, twice as high in Canada, significantly higher than all of our European counterparts. We're basically on par with Turkey Romania and Bulgaria," Levkoff said.

One million girls will become teen moms this year, struggling with motherhood away from the cameras.

"It's not glitz and glamour, it is hard work," Sanders, a teen-mom-to-be, said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Jan192011

'Teen Mom 2': Medical Reality Intrudes on MTV Reality Show

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Now here's a dose of reality. New mother Leah Messer learned in the last episode of MTV's Teen Mom 2 that one of her twins may have disabilities.

The reality star left the doctor's office crying after hearing the devastating news that her one-year-old daughter Aliannah was not growing as well as her twin sister.

On the show, Aliannah shrieks as the doctor attempts to straighten her crooked legs.

"It's pretty obvious that there are deficits," said the doctor, who could not provide more details, but immediately ordered an MRI of the child's spine. "To me, it looks like her arms are too short. She looks a little disproportioned. You see that? There certainly are things that aren't working."

He suspected a "nerve-rooted injury" could be causing the deformity.

The twins were born in an emergency Caesarian section and Aliannah was born in the breach position -- or legs first.

After the doctor's visit, Messer called Corey Simms, who is the twins' father. The couple first appeared on the prequel show, 16 and Pregnant, and were recently married.

Both MTV shows have been under heavy fire for encouraging teen pregnancy and painting an attention-getting picture of pregnancy and motherhood. Reps for MTV didn't return phone calls seeking comment.

Even the show's website acknowledges the trend: "After examining the Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant phenomenon we can say that how eager are the young ladies to be on reality TV shows. They are not even hesitating to be pregnant to just score an audition."

But with new story lines like these, experts like Leslie Hughes, a nurse practitioner at the Teen Ob Clinic at Thomas Jefferson Hospital, says that television is "doing a better job."

"A few years ago, Hollywood glamorized teen pregnancy with girls like Britney Spears' younger sister being called, 'the little homemaker,'" she said. "I didn't think that was cute at all."

"But Teen Mom shows the harsh realities -- it's not just a dress-up doll," said Hughes. "It's a major responsibility."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio