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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Social media, reality TV could help reduce teen pregnancies

Thank Maci, Farrah and the other stars of MTV's "Teen Mom" - they may be the reason teen pregnancy rates are decreasing.

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen birth rates in the U.S. dropped last year to the lowest they have been in about 70 years.

Teen birth rates have been decreasing for the past three years. Since peaking in 1991, they have dropped 44 percent.

MTV shows such as "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" depict the realities of being a pregnant teenager and a young mother.

These scenarios could encourage teenagers to think critically about the consequences of pregnancy, said Bruce Floyd, social media specialist for UF University Relations.

"Footage shown from the MTV shows could help educate people how teen pregnancy is not glamorous and can change your life dramatically," Floyd said.

In 2010, there were 34.3 births per 1,000 teenagers and young adults ages 15-19, according to a Nov. 17 Reuters article. That's a 9 percent drop from the previous year. In 2009, the rate was 39.1 births per 1,000 women in that age group.

Social media platforms could have also contributed to the lower teen pregnancy rate, Floyd said.

Facebook and Twitter can be effective because they allow people to engage in dialogue and help organizations connect with their followers.

The CDC has a special link for social media and teen pregnancy on its website. Among other features, links and images to promote talking to teens about sex or preventing teen pregnancy are on the website.

CDC website visitors also can post cut-and-paste messages on their Facebook pages, providing information on teen pregnancy prevention.

Staci Fox, CEO of Planned Parenthood of North Florida, said she thinks social media helps prevent teen pregnancy because it allows young adults to speak in a familiar and comfortable medium. Teenagers can still speak with their partners about sex and protection without having to be face to face, which can make it less awkward.

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She also said TV shows that display teen parenthood could help prevent unplanned pregnancy.

"At first, as a movement we were worried exposure would sensationalize the issue," she said, "but instead it has brought it home for teens."

Campus and local sex education programs also could have contributed to lower teen pregnancy rates.

Educating teenagers on safe sex measures like birth control gives them the tools to prevent pregnancy, said Samantha Evans, sexual health educator for GatorWell.

Evans said she likes to teach all methods of prevention, not just abstinence but also barrier methods, hormonal contraceptives and emergency contraceptives. She teaches to large groups of students in classrooms and organizations, and she advises students one-on-one or in couples.

Fox said she thinks sex education has come a long way.

Schools supporting teenagers after they become pregnant or give birth could be another contributor to the lower teen pregnancy rate.

Eastside High School is re-implementing a program after January called Partners in Adolescent Life Support, or PALS, school nurse Georgianna Beveridge said.

The program will serve as a support group for students who are pregnant or have had a child, she said.

The goal is to teach the students to prevent any future pregnancies they could have while they are still teenagers.

Fox thinks teen pregnancy happens when teenagers can't communicate about sex and can't get access to preventative measures.

While she said she thinks teen pregnancy will continue its decline, she thinks the issue will never be eradicated because there will always be teens who can't get the help they need to prevent getting pregnant.

 

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