Am I the only one who feels sorry for MTV?
Recently, the network has come under fire for its provocative new show “Skins,” based on the popular British television series, which displays teens engaging in rock star-esque lifestyles. The excessive drug use and sexual behavior on the show has parents, teachers and child advocates alike denouncing the show and demanding its cancellation.
They’re worried that America’s already susceptible youth will adopt the mindset of the teens on the show and be drained of the little innocence they’ve retained after years of exposure to sexually suggestive movies, TV shows, commercials and music.
Other MTV series — think “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” — have also been scrutinized because it is believed that the shows have glamorized teen pregnancy. According to an article on www.parentdish.com, many said that the shows may have contributed to the booming rise in teen pregnancies, particularly in one Memphis high school, where 90 female students have either given birth or are currently pregnant this year.
If parents, teachers and child advocates want to play the blame game, they should at least play fair. MTV should not be considered the sole cause of the moral depravity of the nation’s youth. The alarming rise in teen pregnancies, drug use and other sorts of reckless behavior are the result of schools and parents ignoring their responsibilities and duties while expecting basic life lessons to come from TV.
Surely, MTV and other networks catering to young adults have to be ethically responsible. There is a blurred line in demography between children and adults, and MTV seems to actively engage and thrive in that gray area. Network executives should understand that, as teenagers, their audience is beginning to develop their views on people and the world. MTV needs to acknowledge that its programming has an impact on those budding perspectives.
Shows such as “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” are MTV’s way of displaying the hardships that girls face as adolescent mothers — including financial struggles, the difficulty of balancing motherhood and continuing education — and the overwhelming emotional and psychological transition from teen to adult within a short period of time.
Although the lifestyles of the girls on the two series are not meant to be viewed as glamorous, it is understandable how a young girl can view the life of a teen mother as appealing, after she realizes that these girls are on television because of their otherwise irresponsible choices. It is public knowledge that these individuals are profiting from their time on camera, as does MTV. As a business, the network can only provide so much guidance without compromising ratings and profit.
The most controversial programs on the network happen to reflect the lives of American teenagers today. While most adults fear that by watching these programs their children will be introduced to concepts that are unsuitable for them to handle, they are unaware of the truth that their kids can identify with the characters; they can relate to their experiences.
Rather than to condemn MTV, parents ought to realize that these shows reflect how teens behave today because of a lack of support and guidance from parents themselves. Perhaps, if more parents were actively involved in the lives of their teens, there would be fewer cases of teens experimenting with drugs. Perhaps if there was a safe-sex program before the pregnancy epidemic and not after, there would have been fewer teen pregnancies in Memphis High School.
But ultimately, the majority of the responsibility rests on the teenagers themselves. At this point in their lives when they are beginning the journey of self-discovery, it is up to them to decide who will influence them and how they will behave accordingly.
But as teens sample life, enjoying new freedoms as well as experiencing new hardships, it will take the collaborative responsibility of television networks, parents and schools to guide them on the path to adulthood.