The general view of the MTV shows "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" is that they are train wreck television in all its tacky, dramatic and salacious glory.
MTV said it wants to show the gritty reality of teen pregnancy, and that these shows serve as a warning to other young teens. Television shows need to be watchable, and garner enough interest to bring viewers back every week. But what MTV actually does to get these viewers is to fill these shows with high drama, sex, violence and story lines that would shame a soap opera.
From make-ups to break-ups to domestic violence and loss of custody, "Teen Mom" has it all. And because of this, five good reasons emerge why these shows serve as nothing more than an invitation to be a star – as long as you’re a pregnant teenager with a back story to rival the characters from Beverly Hills, 90210.
Many teens who watch "16 and Pregnant" end up thinking that these girls and boys have difficult lives that offer no appeal. But ironically, having spoken to many teens on this topic, it’s clear that the kids who feel this way are the same kids would probably wouldn’t end up as teen parents anyway. These kids don’t look up to the teen moms, they use them as warning signs. If this is cool, they’ll take a pass. But the demographics most in danger of getting pregnant--young girls from poor and broken families, having a history of abuse or neglect or having had a teen mom themselves--are the ones inspired by this show. Not inspired to choose a different way of life, but to copy these girls and have a baby. Girls are trying to get pregnant in order to be on the show. This is simply a fact. Pregnancy has suddenly become a career opportunity. Girls talk about how famous the teen moms are, and how it must be great to be on TV and have their faces plastered on the covers of magazines. Because that’s the real reality of this “documentary” – it’s inspires others to follow suit, the very opposite of what MTV claims to want.
MTV asks that teens apply to the show as soon as they’re pregnant because, obviously, “time is of the essence”. MTV said they want to show what “pregnant women” go through. These girls are not pregnant women, they are very troubled children who are now having children. MTV gives out information and instructions about auditions on its website. Hopefuls are told that they will be documented during this “exciting time” in their lives. Teen pregnancy is stressful, devastating and frightening. “Exciting” isn’t a word most parents would choose if their 16-year-old told them she was five months along. Apparently MTV feels differently. Finally, you must download a picture of yourself in your audition. Not that looks matter, right?
The young mothers of "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" have been on the cover of major magazines dozens of times. There are photo layouts covering several pages, with the moms in full glamor makeup, fashionable clothes and their well-dressed babies by their sides, running along beaches and merrily laughing on park swings. The moms do tell of their struggles but a picture paints a thousand words. These glamorous pictures are huge and the text is tiny. Guess which one makes the first and loudest impression? These women are known as “stars”. They walk red carpets and pose for paparazzi. One of the teen mothers corrected an interviewer by telling him that she is not a star, and does not want to be known as one in case this inspires other kids to follow her patterns. But the others appear to revel in their stardom, getting their own makeovers, complete with makeup, hair and nails done to perfection, as tabloid photographers follow them the same way they do pop stars.
The average income for American families is $47,000 per year. MTV is a very generous employer. These teens are making $60,000 a year from making these episodes (in addition to payments from magazines and television interviews). Not bad for a teen who just happened to get pregnant. Judging by the numbers who are auditioning, this kind of salary is well worth getting pregnant for.
So what happens to these teens once the documentaries are over and all they have become are overpaid reality stars, none of whom are still with the fathers of their children (aside from one couple who notably gave their child up for adoption) and some have yet to complete either high school or their third level courses? Some are still wrapped up in court proceedings for custody, financial or criminal activities and most have dysfunctional relationships with their own parents. Money, fame and glamour aside, these girls are left with nothing more than children they cannot afford, and men who have long left them for another. No one wants to see 25-year-old single mom shows. The novelty of being a teen mom will leave as these young women and their children get older. They will quickly turn into the mundane statistics of life and end up on "Where Are They Now?" shows with often sad updates. These shows serve as nothing more than garish side show circuses, with the babies as the only true innocents who are shifted to mother, to father, to new boyfriends, girlfriends and grandparents and anyone else who’s available. There’s more to being a teen mom than scoring the cover of People magazine. And these young women – and those that follow suit – need to be ready for the catastrophic fall-out that’s coming soon - to a TV screen near you.