The study’s co-author, Phillip Levine, told NBC,
“This is sex education for the 21st century. This is a show that very clearly exemplifies what life is going to be like in the aftermath of having a baby at such a young age. It’s very hard to convey that message in any other way. You could talk about it in a classroom environment and maybe it could have some impact, but this is much more compelling.”
Levine and his team at Wellesley college say agree that yes, the teen pregnancy rate has been declining overall in the last 20 years, but the decline was sharpest after 2008, when the labor market was at its worst and when “16 and Pregnant” made its debut.
It seems that with today’s teens, the kind of “scared straight” teaching model “16 and Pregnant” uses wouldn’t work, but social media tells a different story. The Wellesley team saw big spikes in Google searches and tweets about abortion and birth control when the show on. Overall, they think the show is responsible for a 5.7 decline in teen pregnancy in the 18 months after it first hit the air.
The social media part of the “16 and Pregnant” study seems to show that teens prevented pregnancy because they went to reliable sources rather than watched TV. But if the show spurred those Google searches, then it did do some good, I guess.
Did you (or your kid) watch “16 and Pregnant” when it was on the air?