Published September 10, 2010
Forget leaking sex tapes, getting multiple plastic surgeries, and fist-pumping. The latest way to get on the cover of a tabloid these days?
Get pregnant and have a baby when you're a teenager, and do it on TV.
Last month, Us Weekly featured an exclusive with "Teen Mom" star mom Farrah Abraham discussing the death of her 18-month-old daughter Sophia's dad, Derek Underwood, while her co-star Maci Bookout opened up about finding Mr. Right and feuding with her ex.
On newsstands this week, People Magazine has "16 and Pregnant" stars Catelynn and Tyler sharing their “moving story” after choosing adoption for their newborn daughter Carly, and OK! has an “exclusive” cover story with “Teen Mom” Maci and her “Bitter Custody Battle” along with details of her quest to protect her son from “her slimy ex Ryan.”
“The media here is being extremely irresponsible by glamorizing teen pregnancy. We can look forward to a reality show in about 18 years based on these children growing up fatherless, as the cause of mommy's fame,” Los Angeles-based psychologist Nancy B. Irwin told Pop Tarts. “Teens by their very nature are self-centered; where does that leave the baby? Knowing you were only born to pole vault your mother to fame is not the healthiest psychological base for a child.”
The Parents Television Council is also concerned with the potential impact turning teen moms into magazine cover girls could have on young readers.
“Putting the stars of these reality shows on a magazine cover puts them on the same plane as any actress, singer, or other celebrity,” the organization’s Director of Communications and Public Education, Melissa Henson, said. “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.”
Reps for People, Us Weekly and OK! did not respond with comment.
The topic of kids having kids became a hot pop culture topic in 2007 with the release of the successful film “Juno” about same, and gained further traction with the ABC Family drama “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” which became the network’s most watched series in the 12-34 demographic.
One of the nation’s most famous teen moms, Bristol Palin, daughter of former Alaska Governor Bristol Palin, made a cameo appearance on the show as herself. She has also appeared on several tabloid covers, but more because of her on-again off-again relationship with her child's father. The now 19-year-old said that she does not condone teen pregnancy and feels abstinence is still the best, most viable form of contraception.
“Abstinence is practical and very realistic for some people, but others don’t choose that path. For me, sex education was in school, and there are always people telling you that there are consequences to sex and blah blah, but you don’t really realize it until you’re in a situation where you are pregnant,” Palin , who recently became a Teen Abstinence Ambassador for the Candie’s Foundation fighting teen pregnancy, told Pop Tarts.
But not everyone thinks its inappropriate for the tabloids to add to the fame of teen moms by making them cover stories.
“We live in a culture where sharing your story and letting cameras into your life is rewarded with cash. These young moms have tremendous bills to pay. It's a smart way for a family in an economically adverse situation to generate income. It's a savvy business move and an entirely new way to look at home economics," said Hollywood pop culture expert Jenn Hoffman.
And according to psychotherapist and parenting expert Alyson Schafer, magazines are not “given the charge of being socially conscious” and simply seek to satisfy the appetite of American audiences.
“Magazines are for profit venture that have to report to share holders. We the public create a desire and the magazines feed our guilty pleasure – just like the reality shows these teen mothers are on," explained Schafer. "By the time someone is making enough of an impression on TV to warrant a coveted cover story, they are already deep into the business of drawing attention to themselves.”
MTV’s idea of having a reality show on teen pregnancy was conceived – if you will – when Britney Spears' 16-year-old sister, Jamie Lynn, announced she was expecting her first child, and the intention was apparently never to make it look appealing or an easy ticket to fame and fortune.
“(‘16 and Pregnant’) tackles tough issues including strained relationships, balancing school with new responsibilities, gossip, health issues and financial hardships,” read MTV’s press release. “Cameras continue to follow the teens for a significant amount of time after they gave birth to document how they cope with taking care of their infants while trying to maintain a semblance of their teenage life.”
And despite the spike in teen pregnancy storylines, statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that while the number of teen pregnancies in the U.S increased from 435,427 in 2006 to 445,045 in 2007 – they decreased by 2 percent in 2008.
Additional reporting from Deidre Behar.