Snooki wasn’t in college when she learned that she was pregnant, but the stars of another MTV reality show who have reached celeb status were in school when they got the big news. Teen Mom attracted over 3 million viewers each week during its four-season run. It was incredibly popular with females from 12 to 34 … yes, even level-headed college students.
Older adults generally share the consensus that the show portrayed a skewed version of the life of teenage parents, but teens and young adults didn’t care. A spin-off of the reality series 16 and Pregnant, the show was MTV’s top-rated show after Snooki and company’s Jersey Shore. Its “moms” became famous and employed for simply being themselves in the media spotlight.
TIME magazine acknowledged that these popular shows are sending mixed messages about getting pregnant in high school or college. MTV’s Lauren Dolgen, the creator of both shows, got the idea after reading that teen pregnancy is an epidemic in the United States. “We thought it was so important to shed light on this issue and to show girls how hard teen parenting is.”
Friends gathered each week on Howard University’s campus to hold “watch parties,” ABC News reported reported back in 2010. The trend occurred on campuses across the country.
One Michigan State University senior confessed to tuning in because she had faced similar issues after giving birth to her own child. “I watch the show because I can relate to their struggles,” she explained.
Another student, who was a senior at University of Detroit Mercy at the time, felt inclined to watch Teen Mom because she saw the stars “grow up” on 16 and Pregnant. She even admitted to purchasing a tabloid magazine simply because the teen moms were on the cover.
Half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. But even though parents and other advocates are afraid shows like Teen Mom are glamorizing motherhood and possibly even encouraging girls to get pregnant, facts released from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy show that teen pregnancy rates have actually dropped 42% since 1990.
It’s easy to assume that sex ed classes are finally working, or that teens are using birth control more than ever before. Both ideas could be true, at least partially, but statistics show that females between the ages of 15 and 19 are waiting longer before they start having sex. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48.9% of teens in that age group were virgins in 1995. During 2006-2010, the percentage had risen to over 56.
As you would expect, becoming sexually active at an older age means that young women are often in college when they lose their virginity. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reports that more than one-third of all unplanned pregnancies are to unmarried women in their 20s.
Dealing with pregnancy and motherhood while going to college might seem feasible thanks to reality TV shows and our growing obsession with celebrities’ baby bumps, but college itself is stressful. Just imagine a growing belly, aching back, seemingly endless doctor’s appointments, and becoming responsible for another human being … on top of going to class, studying, taking exams, and having a social life. Many students wind up dropping out of school.
Understandably, one of the toughest decisions that teens and young adults face is whether they should or should not have sex with a boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s an important decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Adults have realized that the idea of abstinence may not be realistic, but birth control in college is fairly accessible at most schools thanks to campus clinics or local organizations like Planned Parenthood. And despite objections from some religious colleges and universities, the Health and Human Services Department is working to make birth control available on student health insurance plans. You should be able to contact your college or university’s student health center for additional information.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
Have something to say? Feel free to add comments or additional information.