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'Teen Mom' shares hard realities

Posted: October 14, 2010 11:04 a.m.
Updated: October 15, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Farrah Abraham, Maci Bookout, Amber Portwood and Catelynn Lowell.

If you don’t know those four names, you will soon enough.

Farrah, Maci, Amber and Catelynn are four teenage girls who are currently featured on MTV’s reality show spinoff “Teen Mom,” the hit show that chronicles the lives of teenage mothers who find themselves struggling to adjust to young motherhood.

But while the young women and their babies have recently been featured on the covers of popular tabloid magazines, several conservative commentators have highly criticized both them and the “influential” music television network for “glamorizing and glorifying teen pregnancy.”

 “It is sending the message to girls that if you get pregnant as a result of being sexually active; you could end up on TV or a magazine cover,” said Melissa Henson, director of communications and public education for The Parents Television Council.

Interesting.

I would have actually thought that Ms. Henson had a valid point in her assumption. That is, if I believed that she had ever seen even one episode of the show.

Maci and the father of her child, Ryan, broke off their engagement on the show. Now, the two are shown in the middle of a tense custody battle.

Meanwhile, Maci is having difficulty with adjusting to being a single mother, working, going to school and finding a guy who can handle the responsibility that is associated with dating a teenage mother.

Amber and Gary Shirley, who also broke off their engagement on the show, are shown constantly bickering with one another over financial issues, finding a babysitter and deciding which of the two teenage parents should be the primary caregiver of their daughter.

Domestic violence is also explored on the show, as the on-again, off-again couple’s arguments often result in explosive arguments. Most recently, Amber punched Gary in the face at least seven times after she felt he called her an unfit mother -- ultimately spawning a slew of anti-domestic violence messages by MTV. Since the episode has aired, Amber has faced criminal charges.

Farrah, who is a single mother, is also dealing with living on her own and finding a decent job to support both her and her daughter. After realizing that she can no longer hang out with friends like a “normal teen,” Farrah now spends all of her time taking care of her daughter, working long hours and trying to find time to study for culinary school.

Catelynn and Tyler, who opted to have an open adoption, are shown dealing with what they say was the hardest decision of their lives. The two have openly said that if they had kept their daughter, Carly, there would have been a very slim chance that either of them would have even graduated from high school.

Call me crazy, but that doesn’t exactly sound like the glamorous life that many teen girls would be willing to dive into, just to brag that their picture was placed next to Angelina Jolie’s photo in an Us Weekly magazine.

According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 82 percent of teens who watch the show said it helps them understand how hard teen pregnancy and parenthood is, and how to avoid it. Almost 50 percent of teens from Southern Boys and Girls Clubs said they discussed sex, love or relationships with an adult because of something they saw in the media about teen pregnancy.

Depicting teen parents on a national television show doesn’t necessarily glorify their lives. Instead, it brings to light a subject that most adults would rather pretend didn’t exist.

Granted, I’d much rather not see the young girls on the cover of national magazines at the grocery store, too.

But instead of complaining about it, perhaps we should continue to use this opportunity as a teachable moment for our kids, by continuing to emphasize the importance of contraception/abstinence and healthy relationships.

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