This show is a real bile-churner. Its “stars” are train wrecks who appear to be getting rewarded — financially and famously — for doing something wrong. Their televised struggles are meant to dissuade babies from having babies, but the tabloid racks that line checkout stands across the country play up these little girls’ horizontal adventures like they have earned a spot on the red carpet on Oscar night.
If I sound insulting, it’s because I feel insulted being bombarded with mixed messages like this. ABC After-School Special Society tells me teen pregnancy is bad, bad, bad, but the supermarket Zietgeist says it’s all good, everything’s fine, go back to sleep and leave us alone.
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None of this really rose to the level of comment in my mind until reading a story in this newspaper last week about Imperial County having the fifth highest teen birth rate in the state. This is not a shocking statistic if you’ve been raised here. When I was in high school between 1988 and 1992, there were so many teen pregnancies there was a makeshift preggers academy at a church on Brighton Avenue down the street from Central.
With history as a lesson book, you’d think people would have become more educated and enlightened to the fact that babies having babies sets up the parent and child on a path of struggle that did not have to start out that way. Clearly, having a child at 15, 16, even 19, does not mean your life is over, that your dreams are done. But it does make everything more difficult for all involved and on multiple levels.
It’s hard enough to be a parent when you’ve allegedly got it together. Now think about graduating high school, going to college, having a social life and maturing quickly, because science has taught us that while the teen body is full-speed-ahead, the brain is still developing its coping skills and how to rationally deal with life. Something’s got to give, and most of the time it’s the child who suffers. The exceptions are rare.
How do we take statistics on teen pregnancy rates and use them to educate our children about waiting, or protection, or even simple lessons of responsibility, when the deafening roars to the contrary drown out the lessons?
We, as parents, have the ultimate responsibility to our children. But too many parents suffer from joblessness or subsistence work. Too many of us suffer from a lack of education. Too many of us suffer from environment, few good examples and plenty of factors that have been proven to add to social/societal problems like teen birth rates, addiction, dropping out of school, issues that while distinct and separate, often are intertwined.
What kind of chance in hell does any parent have to get through to their child when In Touch magazine runs a cover like it did last week, with headlines like “Farrah hoping her boob job will get her a spin-off show” and “Amber hooked on pills and trying to be a porn star.”
Reading those words in this context, they are textbook examples of what’s wrong here. But In Touch is providing the MTV context of bright lights, flashy graphics and fake fame.
It’s like serving a poison cocktail in a cold Coke bottle. It’s bad for you, but goes down so sweetly, who can resist? Certainly not a teen seeing stars with a compass on the fritz.