Believe it or not, MTV appears to be inspiring teenagers to avoid pregnancy — yes, the very same network that glamorizes not just rap and rock ‘n’ roll but sex, drugs, and debauchery. In 2009, MTV launched the documentary series 16 and Pregnant, which shows the gritty reality of life as a young expectant parent. Here’s a trailer for the first season:

Some naysayers argue that the series and its spin-off, Teen Mom, glamorize teenage parenthood — not because the shows paint a rosy portrait (this Teen Mom trailer certainly doesn’t look glam), but because the young women featured have become tabloid regulars. But there’s another side to the story.

A poll conducted last fall for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that 82 percent of teenagers who watched 16 and Pregnant “think the show helps teens better understand the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenthood and how to avoid it.” And a study commissioned by the group found that after watching an episode, 93 percent of teens agreed with this statement: “I learned that teen parenthood is harder than I imagined from these episodes.”

MTV logo and flowersA source of goodness and light?“Entertainment media is one of the nation’s favorite punching bags, but we have to acknowledge that when we’re talking about teen pregnancies media can be and often is a force for good, and that is particularly true when it comes to shows like 16 and Pregnant,” says Bill Albert of the National Campaign. “Some critics say these shows glamorize teen pregnancy, but our survey data shows that’s not the case — that not only do they not glamorize it, but teens who have seen it suggest it makes the realities of teen parenthood more real to them.”

MTV happily touted the National Campaign’s poll and study, and even took credit for helping to lower the national teen birthrate, which hit a seven-decade low in 2009. But considering that 16 and Pregnant didn’t debut until June 2009, and that a pregnancy takes nine months to come to term, sounds like somebody isn’t very good at math.

When teens have to turn to MTV for decent sex ed, you know the situation is grim. Is it any wonder the U.S. has one of the highest teen birthrates in the developed world?

This is the latest in a series of Saturday GINK videos about population and reproduction (or a lack thereof).

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