Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
While parenting groups have called for shows like MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom to be yanked off the air for glamorizing teen pregnancy, a new study suggests 16 and Pregnant and its spinoffs have actually helped lower the teen birth rate. Yep, in fact a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research that examined Nielsen television ratings and birth records states that the shows have prevented more than 20,000 births to teenage mothers in 2010 alone.
Even though some of the so-called stars of the show have gone on to become C-list celebrities, it seems teens are getting the message loud and clear that pregnancy and raising a baby is hard work—even harder when you’re in an unstable relationship, dealing with a major financial crunch and sleepless nights while trying to get through high school, and wishing you were out partying with your friends rather than changing poopy diapers.
The findings suggest that seeing these teen moms—many of which are total messes—has forced teens to take a look at what having sex, especially unprotected sex, can lead to. Luckily, they agree the picture isn’t pretty! The show—which can draw up to 3 million viewers per episode, many of which are young females—is credited with an almost 6 percent drop in the overall teen pregnancy decline.
Lead researchers, Melissa S. Kearney, the director of the Hamilton Project, a research group in Washington, and Phillip B. Levine of Wellesley College, looked at Nielsen ratings as well as search data for Google Trends and Twitter to determine the show’s potential impact on teen birth rates. They recorded spikes in Google searches and Twitter mentions about the show when new episodes aired and looked for searches on terms like “birth control” and “abortion,” which also spiked. They then looked to see if higher viewership in certain geographic areas corresponded with a bigger drop in teen births. It did.
Over all, they found that the rate of teenage pregnancy declined in areas where teens were watching more MTV programming than in areas where they did not. According to the New York Times, they weren’t able to know whether individual viewers of the programs “changed their behaviors to avoid unprotected sex, but the researchers were able to correlate viewership over all with reduced birthrates.”
In 1991, 62 teenage girls out of every 1,000 gave birth. By 2007, that dropped to 42 out of 1,000. In 2012, the birthrate dropped even lower to 29 out of 1,000. The study found that watching 16 and Pregnant can account for about one-third of the decline during an 18-month period in 2010. Can you believe it?
TELL US: Do you think TV shows about teen pregnancy encourages teens to get pregnant or discourages them from getting pregnant?
Image of woman taking birth control courtesy of Shutterstock.
Add a Comment
Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
The network that gave you an inside peek into the partying ways of Guidos (Jersey Shore), teens’ struggles to raise kids (Teen Mom), and misleading internet dating (Catfish), now explores the topic of being a sperm donor baby. The new docuseries, Generation Cryo, which debuts November 25, follows 17-year-old Bree as she tracks down 15 of her half brothers and sisters, and has them join her in the quest of finding their shared (and very busy!) sperm donor, the person responsible for half of their DNA.
Bree and her half siblings found each other through the Donor Sibling Registry, which has helped connect more than 10,000 children conceived through sperm donors. Like all of MTV’s voyeuristic guilty pleasures, this one has a high level of intrigue. Most people don’t know much about the world of sperm banks, add to that it’s a big scavenger hunt to find their biological father, and the kids quickly become supportive siblings, causing some major tugs on the ol’ heart strings.
But most people don’t go around talking about using a sperm donor, let alone being a sperm donor. But maybe this show will actually destigmatize the idea of using a sperm donor. The perception is that sperm donations are something guys do in college to make a quick, easy buck, because sperm donors receive anywhere from $40-$100 per sperm sample, and can earn up to $6k a year. Meanwhile, according to Newsweek, people wanting sperm can pay around $2k for it, and the whole in vitro fertilization process can cost $15-18k.
So who’s using sperm banks? About eight percent of couples are infertile due to a problem with the man’s sperm (low sperm production, misshapen or immobile sperm, or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm), which is one reason to seek a sperm donor. Single women and lesbian couples also often turn to sperm banks to have children.
How would you feel if your child wanted to go on a televised quest to find her sperm donor—not only revealing to the world that you used one (!), but potentially inviting this stranger into your family once they connect? Knowing both of my parents and having a large extended family and loving genealogy, I think I would be understanding of my kid’s journey of self discovery and wanting to know where she had come from—the TV part I’m not so sure about!
Everyone involved in this show is gutsy to let people into their journey, where emotions are sure to run high: What if the sperm donor doesn’t want to be found, and rejects meeting his 16 kids? What if the kids’ dads who raised them feel it’s a slap in the face to find the donor, who has never been a part of their lives? What if the donor does keep in touch with all of his kids—what does that mean for everyone’s lives? The built-in drama of this show is pretty genius. Like everything MTV does, though, there’s a (un)healthy heaping of sensationalism involved. I just hope they find the balance of respecting these kids and their families, while still giving an accurate picture of what it’s like to be the child of a sperm donor, and a sperm donor, if we—the TV audience—do get to meet him.
Generation Cryo debuts Monday, Nov. 25, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.
TELL US: Will you be tuning into the show? Would you consider using a sperm donor? How would you react if your child wanted to find his/her sperm donor?
Image of sperm courtesy of Shutterstock.
Add a Comment