Friday, September 5, 2014

Did Teen Parent's make a mistake?

This is the crux of the recent LaciGreen video on a channel she publishes to for Planned Parenthood.

Teen Pregnancy?

I consider LaciGreen a friend, even met her once in 2010 and she was a great host.  While I don't agree with the above video, the great thing about friendships is that we can disagree and still maintain friendship.  Below you will find links to her YouTube channels and I hope you check them out.

I am going to start off with my view on teen pregnancy.  It should be avoided.  Teens who do become parents have made a mistake.  The best way to reduce teen pregnancy is by having involved parents who know what their children are doing.  Second to that, I believe that condoms and birth control should be available more so than they are now.  I would be in favor of having condom vending machines in the school bathrooms.  I would also be in favor of making birth control pills available even without parental consent.  

On this LaciGreen and I agree.  Also teen pregnancy is at an all time low.  This is confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control whose most recent data (at the time of this blog) is from 1991 to 2012

Where LaciGreen and I disagree is on the awareness campaign aimed to curb teen pregnancy even more than it already is.  She compares it to slut shaming and I could not disagree more.  I will explain why.

The first quote is around the 0:28 mark of the video.  When she is talking about how greater access to birth control and sex education she says this:

"When young people have accurate information and access to resources they make responsible decisions."

Now, while I accept that this may have been the case for the high school LaciGreen attended, it was not the case in my school.  People I went to high school with rarely thought about the future when making decisions, thus keeping the school nurse busy with bandages.  We were carefree and lived in the moment.  In other words we were your typical teenagers raging on hormones.  In addition, we had sex education at my school and condoms you could buy at any gas station.   We still had plenty of students who became teen parents. Teenagers DON'T make responsible decisions because they are teenagers.

Now lets get on to the main point of disagreement:  Shaming or education?


First let's view real shaming here.

In my opinion the above demotivational posters represent shaming.  In just 5 minutes on Google I found many referring to the young girls as sluts, whores, and failures in life.  Another thing I noticed is that I was not able to find similar pictures shaming the fathers.  This is not to say that there isn't teen father shaming it is just that I could not find it as easily as I could for teen mothers.

Now compare the above with some excepts from the mission statement of the Candies Foundation.

"The Candie's Foundation is a non-profit organization that works to shape the way the youth in America think about the devastating consequences of teen pregnancy and parenthood....Research has shown that teen girls who have been exposed to The Foundation and its messages are more likely to view teen pregnancy and parenthood as stressful and negative, and are more likely to be skeptical of the media's portrayal of teen pregnancy and parenting. Teens exposed to the campaign also believe their peers should wait longer to have sex versus those who are not aware of The Foundation and the education it brings about teen parenthood"

Now who really can argue with that?  Let's take a look at one of their public service announcements.

The Candie's Foundation - Consider Your Options

In addition to Birth Control and Condoms the Candies Foundation also lists abstaining which is by far the best way to avoid not only pregnancy but also STD's.  Now when I say abstaining I am referring to individual choice.  With the rare exception of rape, in which the choice is removed, abstaining from sex works every time.  I am however a critic of abstinence only sex education.  In fact, it is a well established fact that states that only teach abstinence have the highest teen pregnancy rates.  

I would hardly say that the Candies Foundation participates in shaming of teen mothers.  Rather, what they do is educate teens about the risks involved in sex and the life changing consequences of teen pregnancy. LaciGreen chastises the Candies Foundation for referring to teen parents as a statistic.

However, everyone is a statistic.  At least in the eyes of those who compile them.  You can go to the Center's For Disease Control and look up obesity rates, you can look up any data you want from the US Census.  Saying more than 750,000 girls will become pregnant this year is not shaming them, it is simply a fact.  

Other PSA's like the one above talk about the true costs of being a parent.  The text is really small on this one but it states that raising a baby can cost more than $10,000 and one night can cost more than you think, obviously this PSA is aimed at encouraging teens to wait before they have sex.  You can go on the CandiesFoundation website and view all their video and print PSAs if you want to see more, but I think they are doing a great job on teaching todays youth that becoming a parent is a life changing moment and that it is better to wait until they are emotionally and financially prepared for such a commitment.

New York Teen Pregnancy PSAs

The next thing LaciGreen brings up is the series of advertisements placed along bus stations and subway entrances.  There are a total of six posters and you can view them all here.  I am only going to embed a few of them.  

While the facts in the campaign are not in dispute, I am a bit torn on my opinion of this campaign.  For example, if I was a child of a teen mother how would I react.  I would wager that seeing something like this might make me feel less than a whole person.  Bastard is still a word very much in use today and the stigma attached to being one is very real.  It should be noted that New York City has since backed away from this campaign and the signs are coming down.

Now at the bottom of each poster you saw a prompt to text in a code with your mobile phone.  While you might expect, useful information such as sources for the facts quoted or resources on birth control instead you got an automated bot taking you through a chose your own adventure.  This was the next point covered in LaciGreen's video.

Textbot Troll

This is also been named Fat Loser.  You can read the full story on this "PSA" through this article.  Needless to say, I agree with the author of the article and LaciGreen when they say that this textbot is a waste of time and more importantly tax payer dollars. 

The Benefits of Shame

Is there ever a benefit to shaming someone.  Absolutely.  Think about all the anti-smoking PSA's we have seen.  Hollywood for years have promoted smoking, the PSAs we see on TV all tell us the true cost of smoking and some of it is hard to watch.  Such as they one going around currently with the guy with the hole in the throat.  I have to close my eyes when he comes on, he just freaks me out.  Smokers are constantly told that their breath stinks, they have disgusting skin, and essentially nobody wants to be around them.  

Likewise their is fat shaming.  While not as widely accepted as smoke shaming, it is still an effective tool to encourage people to adopt a more healthy lifestyle.  Here is an example of one of the best anti obesity PSAs out there.

Rewind the Future

We live in a free society, mostly.  As such people do make poor choices that not only affect them but those around them, as a society I think we should try to reach out and encourage people to make better choices. This is where we tell the person lighting up a cigarette for the first time about the dangers of lung cancer.  This is where we try to keep people away from sun tans because we don't want their skin to become leather by age 40.  This is where we try to encourage young people to adopt a healthy lifestyle of good food and exercise.  Most importantly this is why we should warn teens about the true costs of being a parent, both the financial cost and the emotional cost.  We should do this because the life affected is not just the teen parent but also the child involved.  The child who has a greater chance of being born into poverty.  The child who has a greater chance of being in trouble with the law.  

Just as the anti-smoking PSAs combat Hollywood's portrayal of smoking, the teen pregancy PSAs combat Hollywood's portrayal of teen sex.  You can call me old fashioned if you like but 16 year old kids should not be out having sex.  In my school we had people in the junior high getting pregnant, these were girls 13 and in some cases even younger.  I would like to link the following opinion piece from the New York Times on the benefits of shaming and the defense of the NYC teen pregnancy billboards.  

Teen pregnancy is not like the movie Juno, where the parents are cool and accepting.  There are many times, where the family will disown their own daughter for becoming pregnant.  Shotgun weddings are also a thing of the past, boys are no longer marrying the girls they knock up, and in many cases will break up with the girl because she got pregnant.  We can put condoms in the hand of every young person in America, but that still won't be enough, some teens WANT to get pregnant.  It is for this reason PSAs are necessary.

We all went to school with the girl who wanted to get pregnant just so she could hold on to her man.  We all went to school with the girl who was having trouble at home and saw having a baby as a path to financial independence; i.e. welfare.  Sad but true there are also girls who want a baby for no other reason than they have their maternal instincts kicking in early and just want to start a family.  Personally, I think we should have these girls and boys and lock them up with the most tantrum filled bundle of joy we could find and in a few hours of pure hell as the child screams 24/7 they will change their minds quick.  

Teens Don't Understand Consequences

At 1:35 into LaciGreen's video she comments about how wrong it is to assume that teenagers don't know the consequences of pregnancy and that shame and fear is the wrong way to solve the problem.  This is another point where we disagree.  By definition, teens do not understand consequences of almost anything.  Teens are hormonal people without experience to know when something is a bad idea.  They absorb pop culture which is constantly telling them that sex is a normal part of their teen years.  In fact being a virgin is something mocked by Hollywood.  

So they see people in the movies and television having sex.  Porn is readily available on the internet, their classmates are all bragging about it (fun fact the ones who brag the most are the ones who usually get laid the least).  We live in a society where teen sex is celebrated and nobody is talking about waiting until they are older.  

Now LaciGreen is on point with her next issue that most of the PSAs are aimed at young girls.  What she is missing though, is the fact that the boys don't stick around.  They don't marry the girls anymore and in fact it is not too uncommon for a teen mother to have multiple babydaddy's.  Like it or don't like it, the truth of the matter is that it is the girl who is stuck with the child for the next 20 years not the boys.  Should we teach boys to wrap their whopper?  Absolutely.  Should we shame boys who don't man up and pay their child support, of course.  If you don't pay your child support, you are not a man in my opinion.  However, I don't ignore the truth that many men don't pay their child support and most teen mothers wind up on welfare.  This is a cold hard fact that every young girls needs to be told until it sinks in.  They can not count on their boyfriend to stay with them, they are doing themselves and their child harm by giving themself a life sentence of poverty.  Don't have sex until you are ready and don't let a boy pressure you.  He doesn't want a family, he just wants sex.

Education and Resources for Teen Parents

At 2:20 LaciGreen discusses her ideas for a better way and on the whole I do agree with her.  For the teens who have already become parents we as a society need to ensure they have the resources they need to adequately care for their child.  This includes things like WIC which helps mothers get a healthy start for their child.  We should also work with our schools to ensure they have the resources they need for their teen parents.  We should not kick them out of school.  I see nothing wrong with setting up schools with daycare facilities, or for the smaller districts providing daycare vouchers so the mothers can continue to attend school.  I also support the idea of continuing this beyond high school so the teen parents can get some real job training such as a trade school or community college.  

However, for the teens who have not yet had a baby, warnings should be given if we see them going the wrong way.  Would you try to stop a teen from buying alcohol, or attending a concert by themself?  I am sure most of us would.  Doing those things have proven to be very dangerous to young people.  It is better to wait until they are older.  All I am saying is we should continue to try to convince teens that having babies is something that should also be done when they are emotionally and financially stable enough to handle a lifetime commitment.

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LaciGreen YouTube
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