Did you know the United States has the highest number of teen pregnancies in the industrialized world?
Many of us would assume that fact has something to do with modern cultural influences - television fare featuring sexualized youngsters, for instance - but an NPR story yesterday profiled a pair of new reality shows that producers hope will have the opposite effect.
The programs, 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, track real high school girls, their boyfriends and parents as they go from classroom to delivery room to sleepless nights caring for an infant. While some have expressed concern that the shows actually cast teen pregnancy in a glamorous light, others - the White House included - are using them as educational tools:
[Teacher] Elda Vallecillos says the show came along at just the right time for her students because they're old enough to understand how an unplanned pregnancy can interrupt their carefully laid plans.
"We track our students for 13-plus years," she says. "This is a really crucial time in their development, their teenage years. We thought they needed to be educated about teenage pregnancy prevention, and 16 and Pregnant was one of those shows that kind of brought everything to life for them. It was important for them to see the challenges of being a parent so young."
Photo by Polina Sergeeva