Special Studies in English
Student Number: 0760355
Monday September 28th, 2015
Teen Mom and Its Effect on Social Media
“In ’16 and Pregnant,’ they were moms-to-be. Now, follow Maci, Farrah, Catelynn, and Amber as they face the challenges of motherhood. Each episode interweaves these stories revealing the wide variety of challenges young mothers can face: marriage, relationships, family support, adoption, finances, graduating high school, starting college, getting a job, and the daunting and exciting step of moving out to create their own families” (Teen Mom 1).
In today’s society, teenage motherhood has become a popular social media trend. Many people argue this trend began with the June 2009 premiere of MTV’s controversial television show, 16 and Pregnant, which followed teen mothers over the course of their pregnancies (Wright, Randall & Arroyo 52). The television show gained a large cult following of teenagers and young adults resulting in a spin-off show, Teen Mom, which premiered in December 2009 (52). The ongoing series, Teen Mom, follows four teenage mothers and their struggles into adulthood while balancing raising a child, attending school, working, and trying to maintain stable and healthy relationships with their male counterparts (52). As a result of the television show’s popularity, the Teen Mom page created on Facebook has become a social media outlet for many teen mothers and fans of the television show. The page allows people to share and express their opinions on various controversial topics resulting from watching Teen Mom (Teen Mom 1). Teen Mom has positively influenced social media as it has enabled many teenagers and young adults to begin discussing teen pregnancy more openly. As a result of the television show, many teenagers and young adults, male and female, feel more comfortable discussing issues regarding teenage pregnancy, sexuality and sexual protection with their parents, friends, or classmates. The creation of the Teen Mom page on Facebook allows teenagers and young adults to anonymously post questions, answer each other’s questions and give their personal opinions regarding various controversial issues that they may feel uncomfortable discussing with people outside of social media groups.
Aimee Morrison’s article, “Suffused by Feeling and Affect: The Intimate Public of Personal Mommy Blogging” is comparable to the Teen Mom Facebook page. Morrison’s article tends to focus on a more mature group of mommy bloggers; however, mommy blogging is not limited to one specific age group. The mommy blogging that Morrison discusses in her article is similar to the blogging of teenagers and young adults on the Teen Mom Facebook page, as both types of blogging can be identified as “personal blogging by 21st century mothers, forcefully enacts this productive link between the story of the self and broader public discourses, both aligning with and diverging from Berlant’s analysis of women’s culture” (Morrison 37). In addition, mommy blogging and Teen Mom blogging can be identified as creating “strong bonds of trust and support that bloggers characterize as meaningful friendship within a community” (37). Teenage mothers may use the Teen Mom Facebook group in order to discuss issues with other teenage mothers that friends without children may not necessarily understand. Teen Mom blogging is also similar to mommy blogging as both parties blog in order to have “deliberate social engagement, a creative as well as interpersonal practice that mitigates the assorted ills (physical isolation, confusion not, lack of role models etc.) and celebrates particular joys of contemporary mothering especially in the earliest years” (37). Social media can be beneficial for mommy bloggers and Teen Mom bloggers as “online media presents a profusion of “spontaneous productions of self hood and identities” (37). It can be argued that social media is beneficial for mothers at any age, as it allows them the freedom to express their views and opinions on motherhood honestly with a group of people who have the same common interests.
On social media, there has been a great extent of controversy regarding the intentions of MTV’s Teen Mom and these concerns are frequently discussed on the Teen Mom Facebook page (Teen Mom 1). According to MTV, the purpose of Teen Mom is to show real life perspectives of teen motherhood and to promote discussions regarding safe sexual health. Each episode ends with the famous Teen Mom phrase, “teen pregnancy is 100% preventable” (1). However, some teenagers and young adults feel that the intention of Teen Mom is to glamourize and encourage teenage pregnancy. Wright, Randall and Arroyo argue in their article, “Father–Daughter Communication About Sex Moderates the Association Between Exposure to MTV’s 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom and Female Students’ Pregnancy-Risk Behaviour” that studies found that “children from families with an open communication style are less affected by sex on television than children in families with restrictive communication norms” (53). Therefore, social media outlets can be beneficial for teenagers or young adults that do not have the “open style communication” in their homes that Wright, Randall and Arroyo discuss in their article. The Teen Mom page may be just one social media source that allows a teenager or a young adult to anonymously gain the sexual health information that he or she needs in a safe and private environment.
Furthermore, sexuality in the media does not necessarily promote teenagers to engage in sexual activity. Wright, Randall and Arroyo’s article claims a study found “decreased probability of having engaged in recent intercourse for females whose fathers often communicated about sex with them while growing up” (50). Therefore, these studies show that “fathers play an especially important role in determining how sexual media socializes their daughters” (50). However, the article claims that abstinence is the only way that “teen pregnancy is 100% preventable” as no form of sexual protection is 100% effective (51). The Teen Mom page allows teenagers to weigh the pros and cons of each form of sexual protection, free from social criticism. It may also be a first step of gaining knowledge before seeking further information regarding sexual health from a medical health professional. As a result, many would argue that the Teen Mom Facebook page is beneficial for many teenagers or young adults.
In conclusion, the Teen Mom Facebook page has had a positive impact regarding the mental, physical, emotional and social health of teenagers and young adults. Teen Mom has enabled discussions regarding the very serious issue of teenage pregnancy and Teen Mom has been active in showing the severe consequences that teenage girls face if they neglect to use sexual protection. It is evident that sexuality in the media cannot be avoided as it plays an active role and therefore, Teen Mom and the Teen Mom Facebook page are not promoting teenage pregnancy but rather educating teenagers on the effects of teenage pregnancy and enabling informative discussions surrounding sexual health.
Word Count: 1057
Morrison, Aimee. “Suffused by Feeling and Affect”: The Intimate Public of Personal Mommy Blogging.” Biography 34.1 (2011): 37. University of Guelph Library. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. <http://sfx.scholarsportal.info/guelph?frbrVersion=6&ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&ctx_enc=info:ofi/enc:UTF-8&ctx_tim=2015-09-28T12:37:42IST&url_ver=Z39.88-2004&url_ctx_fmt=infofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&rfr_id=info:sid/primo.exlibrisgroup.com:primo3-Article-gale_ofa&rf>.
Teen Mom. Facebook, 1 Dec. 2009. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. <https://www.facebook.com/teenmom>.
Wright, Paul, Ashley Randall, and Analisa Arroyo. “Father–Daughter Communication About Sex Moderates the Association Between Exposure to MTV’s 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom and Female Students’ Pregnancy-Risk Behavior.” Sexuality and Culture (2013): 50-66. Print.