Recently, I was in the checkout line at the grocery store and there was a little girl, about six years old, and her mother in line in front of me. We were standing next to the tabloid magazine stand and the little girl picked up one of the weekly tabloids that featured young female stars on its cover. The little girl referred to each star by name and had a conversation with her mother about them. I realized that this six year old knew more about these girls than I did. With the recent boom of teenage pregnancies in our society, I wonder if that little girl will take a cue from the stars she admires so much and think it’s cool to get pregnant while she’s still in her teens.
Seventeen girls from Gloucester, Massachusetts are expecting babies, including many aged 16 or younger. An alleged ''pregnancy pact'' took place between the girls to all be pregnant together in the same year. The obvious question comes to mind when hearing about something like this: Who’s to blame? The school? The media?
Some parents argue that it’s the school’s fault for failure to properly educate their children about sex education. The high school is being scrutinized for cutting off the sex education classes after freshman year, which seems counterproductive since the students are more likely to become sexually active as they get older. The school also offers teenage mothers a free on-site day care center, which can appear as condoning teen pregnancy rather than giving these teen mothers a helping hand like the school alleges. The school also provided the students with free pregnancy tests without question. In fact, the school distributed 150 pregnancy tests just in the beginning of the school year.
The school’s doctor and nurse had distributed birth control to female students in the past, but they wound up resigning after getting criticized for doing so. Maybe too little too late?
Could the parents bring a lawsuit against the school? They could, but they probably wouldn’t be successful. The school could claim that they’re not responsible because more than likely, the girls did not become pregnant on school grounds. In Louisiana, the parents of a 14 year old girl sued the hosts of a party when the girl became pregnant after having sex with a 15 year old boy at the party, which was hosted by adults in a private home. The parents alleged that the hosts did not exercise reasonable care in supervising the children at the party, although the hosts claimed they checked on the children every 15-20 minutes. The court ruled that the reasonableness of the hosts’ supervision was questionable and remanded the case for further proceedings.
Others are arguing that it’s the media’s fault, which leads me to ask whether the media has glorified the once taboo topic of teenage pregnancy? Like it or not, the media is intertwined into the everyday lives of our teenagers - from the movies and shows they watch, to the tabloids and blogs they read. The media can affect our children’s decision making in more ways than we may think.
There have been plenty of movies over the years that tackle the topic of teenage pregnancy; even the popular ‘70s movie ''Grease''. However, the recent box office hit ''Juno'' has come under fire as a culprit of promoting teenage pregnancy. The movie has taken a lot of heat for treating the topic of teenage pregnancy as a joke. It uses dry humor to take the audience through the journey of a young pregnant teenager’s struggle and her relationships with her friends, parents, and the adoptive parents. While it may seem to have taken a very serious subject and make a mockery of it, it could also just serve as a good way to inform children about this topic and how very real it is.
A star like Jamie Lynn Spears, who was only 16 years old when she announced her pregnancy, could also have a major impact on these young minds. Jamie Lynn starred on the Nickelodeon show Zoey 101, where the audience was made up primarily of pre-teens. Although Zoey 101 was Emmy nominated, it was cancelled at the end of last year. While some say it was because the airing of the show could be sending the wrong message, the executives at Nickelodeon say that the decision was made before the news about Spears came out. Whether or not the show’s cancellation dealt with the pregnancy, the message of her pregnancy has been documented by every newspaper, blog and magazine nationwide. The news of the birth of her child was documented almost as much as the ongoing Presidential campaign battles.
Don Kaplan, Zoey Faces Finals, N.Y. Post, Jan. 2, 2008, at 69.
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Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.