MTV Teen Mom: For Glamour or Truth?

She is the classic overachiever teenager, who is smart, athletic and popular. She had aspirations to go away to college with her friends after she graduated high school. She had big dreams for herself. Sounds like any other teenage girl right? I certainly fit that mold when I was a teenager. I was focusing on school and extracurricular activities, loved hanging out with my friends and family and looked forward to going on to college and beginning a career. But there is one big, I mean HUGE difference between myself and this classic teenage, overachiever. At just 16 years old, this classic teenage girl got pregnant and had a baby.

Now I don’t know this teen personally, but millions of people including myself have seen this story unfold. This young girl is actually Maci Bookout from the hit MTV shows, ‘16 and Pregnant’ and ‘Teen Mom’. Maci gave birth to her son, Bentley Candence Edwards in October of 2008. At just 16 years old Maci was on the fast track to becoming a parent. She lost all her teenage freedoms. Her pregnancy caused a rift between her and her baby’s father, she dropped her extracurricular activities, she struggled financially and she had to put college on hold.

I guiltily admit that I am an avid viewer of both ‘16 and Pregnant’ and ‘Teen Mom’. These series have all the ingredients for a good drama reality. There is fighting, crying, laughing, rejoicing and cute little babies!

It is easy to get caught up in their stories, but taking a step back and really analyzing the show I have to ask myself: Do shows like ‘16 and Pregnant’ and ‘Teen Mom’ only glamorize and glorify the lives of teen moms? Do they create an incentive for girls to get pregnant to try to get on the MTV hit shows?

MTV Stars of Teen Mom on the cover of US Weekly magazine

First off, the stars of ‘Teen Mom’ are earning a substantial amount of money from the show. According to Life & Style Magazine, the teen moms earn between $60,000 and $65,000 per season. That is a lot of money for a teenager!
Secondly, there is rarely a magazine cover that doesn’t have the latest teen mom highlighted across the cover about their latest drama or the seeming perks of being a famous teen mom. The show has certainly propelled these teenagers to fame.

But does this show REALLY highlight the benefits of being a teen mom? Honestly, I think it does the opposite. The show itself illustrates the tremendous hardships of teenage motherhood. Yes, the stars are now famous and make a lot of money for teenagers. That might appear to be a lot of money now. But it costs about a quarter of a million dollar to raise a child until they are 18[1] and you can make a good stable income if you go to college and get a degree.

Plus, what really are the chances of you getting onto ’16 and Pregnant’ or ‘Teen Mom’? Just think, about 750,000 teenage girls become pregnant each year[2]. Now that’s a lot of pregnant teens to compete with just to get on a reality show!

According to the New York Times blog, which asked a very similar question, a majority of respondents say that ‘Teen Mom’ and ‘16 and Pregnant’ actually are a great learning tool. The shows demonstrate the extreme difficulties of a teenage pregnancy, financial struggles, inability to finish school, emotional instability, loss of independence, added responsibilities, loss of relationships—both friends and family—the list goes on and on.

Lindsey C. commented on the New York Times blog:

I can learn a lot of things from the reality T.V. show Teen Mom. This show teaches abstinent and sexually active teens around the world the challenges that many of us face every day while also carrying a child. I can learn from this show that getting your education before starting a family is very important. I want to make sure I have a stable living before marriage or kids. It also teaches me how important family is. Many of the teen moms without family support are the ones who have the most struggles and stresses.

One thing that all the teen moms have agreed upon in ’16 and Pregnant’ and ‘Teen Mom’ is that they wished they had waited. I can’t stress this enough—waited. Waiting for sex is a decision that’s packed with a tremendous amount of positive benefits. If you’ve already had sex, don’t stress! It’s never too late to decide to wait until you achieve your life goals and attain self sufficiency, to have sex again. Becoming a teen mom requires you to give up your independent freedom. This is clearly evident in the shows!

So just think you have your whole future ahead of you. You don’t have to worry about pregnancy, STDs or emotional pain and turmoil, if you wait to have sex until you’re in a lifelong monogamous relationship; and by waiting you are free to explore, experience and enjoy all that life has in store for you.

[1] Kost K, Henshaw S, Carlin L. U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State Trends and Trends by Race and Ethnicity, 2010. Available at:  Accessed: 2011 June 22

[2] Ventura SJ, Abma JC, Mosher WD, Henshaw SK. Estimated pregnancy rates by outcome for the United States, 1990-2004. National vital statistics reports: vol 56, no 15, Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2008. Available at: Accessed: 2011 June 22