Teenage pregnancy in the media

Rachel Chistyakov

Voices Editor

People Magazine

Teen pregnancy is currently not an issue at Milken. Through our strong community, wonderful teachers, approach to abstinence, and education of safe sex, some might say that the students at Milken are more privileged than students at other schools. We are generally being sent on a more responsible path of life. But just because there are no influences of teen pregnancy at Milken does not mean that there are not other influences attacking us almost daily, both positive and negative.

16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, two TV series on MTV, were created and are televised to prevent teen pregnancy. At the end of each episode, MTV airs an ad that directs teenagers to a website, www.itsyoursexlife.com, that gives teenagers information about teen pregnancy and how to prevent it. These two shows basically intend to scare young girls from becoming pregnant by showing them girls who are forced to drop out of school, live on their own, lose their friends and their family, and jump from being 16 to 30 because of their pregnancies. After watching an episode of one of these shows, no teenage girl will want to put herself through a situation where she becomes pregnant as a teenager.

However, there are a few other figures in the media that send teenagers the complete opposite message. Bristol Palin, the daughter of Sarah Palin, is most known for becoming pregnant as a teenager. Although she is now a spokesperson for teenage abstinence, I see this as a paradox, considering her image in the media with her baby. On the cover of People magazine in May 2009, Bristol donned the cover with her son Tripp along with a graduation gown and cap. Although the caption quotes Bristol, saying, “If girls realized the consequences of sex, no one would be having it”, the cover sends a completely different message. The cover shows a young, beautiful, skinny girl holding her beautiful young son but also getting ready for graduation. This sends a message to everyone that young girls can become pregnant and still look beautiful and graduate from high school without any problems. Bristol looks thrilled to have a son, completely contradicting her campaign to promote teen abstinence.

Another well-known example of teen pregnancy in the media is Jamie Lynn Spears, the younger sister of pop star Britney Spears. If anything, the one fact that I remember the most from her pregnancy is the baby shower her sister threw for her at her mansion. To me, this seemed glamorous: a young girl celebrating her pregnancy with her rich and distinguished sister while receiving gifts for herself and her baby. There was no sense of shame or regret for her pregnancy, which I feel there should have been, considering she was 17 when she became pregnant. There was, however, a sense of happiness, excitement, and overall acceptance of the situation Jamie Lynn was in.

Another very popular influence is none other than Forever 21, a clothing store that many girls at Milken go to frequently. Forever 21 has a new maternity section that offers baby clothing to their shoppers and the models posing in the clothes look like they could be seniors in high school. It’s horrifying how a clothing store that employs teenagers to be their models and advertises toward teenage girls would sell baby clothes, as if they are accepting teen pregnancy as a common thing and basically supporting and funding it.

This is not reality. I actually asked my dad what his reaction would be if I told him I was pregnant, and he already had a clear answer planned.

“I would send you to a boarding house in Russia. No, not even to Russia, I would send you to Africa. Either you would have to get an abortion or you would be sent away.”

Some might find this humorous or completely exaggerated, but this is not a joke: this is reality. In my family, I would be a shame and an embarrassment if I were to become pregnant as a teenager. Even though I attend a wonderful private school like Milken and have the means to support my child and myself, my life would inevitably go down the drain. There would be no possible way I could go to college with a newborn baby and, therefore, chances are I would not be able to find a decent job or start a career. I would be doomed to live my life taking care of my child without the support of my family or my friends. My dreams of becoming a psychologist, traveling the world, and becoming a writer would disappear within those mere 9 months. I would be just like any other girl on 16 and Pregnant. So why do pop culture magazines and reality television shows, as well as news stations and celebrity commentators, glorify teen pregnancy to such an extent that to some girls it might look appealing? When you’re watching E! News or reading the latest gossip magazine cover and see Bristol or Jamie Lynn going to the park with their babies, you don’t think, “Their lives are ruined.” What kind of message are they trying to send teenage girls?

I feared that this idea might just be from my own imagination and that no one else agreed with me. I decided to interview a few students at Milken to see if our opinions differed. I interviewed the girls in Mrs. Stephanie Monteleone, health teacher, Women’s Health class. I showed the girls the cover of People magazine with Bristol Palin and then showed them a video from an episode of 16 and Pregnant. Their opinions didn’t vary much from mine and many of them had quite a lot to say about the portrayal of teen pregnancy in the media.

“I think Bristol’s picture is much worse than 16 and Pregnant because it’s a lie. 16 and Pregnant shows the reality of school, relationships, and pregnancy. At least they’re being honest about it,” says Sophia Cohen ’13.

Other students saw both the magazine cover and the TV show immoral. Gavriella Bernat-Kunin ’13 stated, “What disturbs me is that people show an interest in both of these images. It’s like they enjoy watching people struggle and they find pleasure in their misery and pain.”


There is a fine line between celebrity gossip and morals. When celebrity commentators and magazines start glamorizing touchy subjects such as teen pregnancy, society will be in turmoil. With so many different influences attacking teenage girls, how will they react to the media and people around them? It seems that the future of teenagers is no longer in our own hands, but in the hands of the media and how they wish to portray teen pregnancy and issues like it.

Images from www.people.com