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Posted October 4, 2010 | comments Leave a comment

Let 'em watch MTV

They're thin, tan, have perfect hair and grace the covers of magazines -- almost weekly now, it seems.

Of course, they aren't your typical supermodels. They usually have a toddler on their hips, and they're still teenagers.

I thought at first that the MTV reality show "16 and Pregnant" and its spin-off, "Teen Mom," were only so popular in my own circle because most of my friends are going through the prime child-rearing years. We are all either pregnant or new moms ourselves, and if not, at least having children is on the radar.

Then I started seeing the girls I follow every week on newsstands and nightly entertainment news programs.

Somewhere between struggling with high school and pregnancy and signing up to have cameras follow them around constantly, these girls became bona fide celebrities.
I know what you're thinking: How dare MTV? Glorifying teen pregnancy. Girls everywhere will see these pretty teen moms and think it'd be a great idea to have a baby themselves.
Well, I beg to differ.

"Teen Mom" should be required viewing, maybe even starting in the pre-teen years.
The show chronicles four of the girls who were originally featured on "16 and Pregnant" as they wade their way through parenting and becoming adults themselves.

With my son tucked safely in his crib last week, I tuned in from my own bed at 10 p.m. for my weekly guilty pleasure and sat up, mouth agape, about halfway through the episode, shocked by what I was seeing.

Amber, whose on-again, off-again relationship with her baby's daddy is a major plot line for the show, started yet another fight with him, but this time she punched, slapped and kicked him, cussing all the while, right in front of her daughter.
 
Their scenes have featured plenty of yelling and even some shirt grabbing. Until this point, I'd mostly found it entertaining. But this, it was full-on domestic violence.

It highlights why I think parents should be more than supportive of letting their own kids watch the show: This is anything but glamorous stuff. Glorifying teen parenthood? Hardly.

Just in this one episode, two of the teen parents, Catelynn and Tyler, learned they wouldn't graduate from high school with their peers because of all the classes they'd missed due to the pregnancy. They, by the way, are the only couple still together. They were also the only ones to give up their daughter for adoption, which has brought on its own set of issues for them to deal with.

Farrah, another of the show's stars, struggles with financial problems while juggling school and being a single mom. In one scene, she broke down because it'd been a year since her baby's daddy died in a car crash and she hasn't found a worthy guy who is willing to date a girl with a baby.

Maci, the fourth teen mom, is in the middle of a custody battle with her own ex-fiance.
Having a baby about the same age as those these moms are caring for, I can attest that being a parent at any age isn't easy. There are always doctor visits, expenses, messes and emotions.

But I can also say that my experience -- starting about a decade later and with a stable relationship, income and household -- has been a world different than the roller coaster I watch on TV.

I have no doubt that these young women love their children, and that there are plenty of teen moms, even in our area, I'm sure, who love and take wonderful care of their kids. But I'm also sure they'd tell any other teenager willing to listen, just to wait. Be responsible now and save pregnancy for later.

It just so happens that with the teen moms on TV, their actions are more powerful than words.

• Contact Jessica Wiant at jwiant@nvdaily.com.

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