Huge Tackles the Biggest Issues for Tweens and Teens

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Jun 29, 2010 @ 05:04 PM

Last night, ABC Family debuted Huge, the latest teen tale from the producers/creators of Gossip Girl and from the writers behind My So Called Life. Defying an important convention of the teen genre, the show doesn’t feature prom queens and rich girls – it features teens who are sent to “fat camp” by parents who fear for their kids’ health (and if the characters’ confessions are to be believed, are ashamed of their unsuccessful children).Huge

But will tweens and teens make Huge a hit the size of its name? It’s a little too soon to tell. While Huge might feature an unexpected cast, it does deal with the hierarchies that inevitably develop when teens congregate. In this case, the skinniest girl is crowned queen bee in the first few minutes of the series. The show promises love triangles, power struggles and underdogs who get their shot. And, with Nikki Blonski of Hairspray fame playing the central role of Willamina (“Will”), we might see some singing.

And whether or not the show stands out among summer shows, it’s sure to spark debate and hopefully, dialogue, about its central theme. We think body issues and weight are in the Zeitgeist more than they have been in a while. For as long as this latest cohort of kids has been in school, we’ve been encouraging them to be healthier. But while we agree that childhood obesity is one of the most pressing public health issues in a decade, we also wonder if we haven’t inadvertently exacerbated the anxiety that tweens and teens already feel about their appearance.

Tweens’ and teens’ concern – or rather, obsession – with their body might not be news,  but the latest numbers from YouthBeat show just how hard it is to embrace Huge’s  mantra: love thy body. While 51% of elementary school kids agree that they are “happy with the way they look,” this number drops to 30% for middle schoolers and to 18% for high schoolers. And the number one and number two things that kids, tweens and teens want to change about themselves are “my weight” and “my appearance.”

So is Huge sending youth mixed messages? Love how you look, but go to our website for healthy snack recipes. Aspire to be Will, who rebels against a camp counselor and her parents who she describes as “demanding that she hates her body.” Laugh and cheer as Will becomes the camp cupcake “dealer,” but share in her regret when her cabin-mate gets sent home for Bulimia.

What I love about the series, at least based on the first episode, is that the show not only allows, but assumes that this issue is more complex than it seems. In an almost dizzying way, you’re set up to despise Amber, the girl who seems to be there to lose just a few pounds, but you’re ultimately drawn to her struggle to really diet and really gain control over her eating. You’re asked to side with Will as she displays her bod in a striptease (down to her bathing suit – this is ABC Family!), but you’re confronted with her admission of vulnerability and shame. Beyond building awareness of the feelings that kids who are struggling with obesity experience, the show seems to send a message that feels true and simple: what tweens and teens of all shapes and sizes really need is support.

Tags: food, kids, Huge, mom, family, Youth, Teens, beverage, ABC Family, TV, tweens

Why Kids Should Keep Watching the World Cup

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Jun 28, 2010 @ 04:50 PM

In full disclosure, I started playing soccer when I was 6 years old, and caught the bug from the beginning. So this blog entry will be a bit difficult for me to write with any sort of objectivity. As part of the first generation of women who saw soccer as their sport, and who saw the girl power in the game long before the 1999 U.S. women’s team celebrated their women's World Cup win with a shirt-offing, I was certainly not alone.2010 FIFA World Cup

For years, soccer has been the game of choice for more kids than most other sports. In 2009, 55% of kids played (and has steadily increased in the years that YouthBeat has tracked this stat). So why does this beautiful game work for so many kids?

First, both girls and boys can play…And while this isn’t always a recipe for sports success, soccer seems to be a passion shared across the sexes. Inherently, this means that soccer has a greater impact on youth culture than most other games. The pitch might be the most compelling place for ever-gender conscious kids and tweesn to find common ground.

Second, soccer doesn’t discriminate. While boys, in particular, begin hearing messages at a young age about the limits of their stature (too short for b-ball, too small for football), soccer rewards the little guy. Don’t get us wrong, soccer requires strength and stamina. But the dream stays alive a bit longer for aspiring soccer stars. Because one only needs a ball to play (shoes are still optional), soccer continues to be one of the most democratic, accessible sports around.

And finally, the field is more open – and we’re not talking size. In most cases, kids don’t compete for one role or a few positions…And this means that kids are less likely to sit the bench and more likely to experience one of the biggest rewards of the game: a sense of belonging.

But when it comes to soccer, do Americans really belong?

While girls around the country took their dads to those U.S. women’s games years ago, mainstream U.S. sports fans haven’t exactly embraced the professional game. But will this change with this World Cup? Some of the numbers are already in, and most would say no – at least not for now. (According to PEWResearch.org, only 27% of Americans said they “cared” about the World Cup before the latest stage of the tourney began.) With the U.S. men’s exciting win over Algeria moving them into the next round of play, more Americans probably tuned in to the team’s heartbreaking loss to Ghana. (According to the Mashable Blog, “The dramatic ending to the World Cup match between the USA and Algeria could set a new record for Internet traffic.”)

In a time when great American heroes can be hard to come by, these guys looked like the real thing. Endorsement deals aside, these guys (important caveat: in the U.S.) aren’t making the money that most other professional athletes are. The love of the game seems like the story we hear about them – not their behavior off the field. And when’s the last time we got to feel like the underdog? We’re proud when they merely move on to the next level – and win the right to compete with teams from countries comprised of kids who grew up thinking this was the only game in town.

With the US out of contention and off the air, will US families pay attention? It’s going to be a tougher sell than ever for little guys who would, in truth, prefer to play than watch soccer. But we think there’s good reason for little kickers to tune in…The beautiful game is incomparably beautiful when it’s viewed at this level. We’re not saying that there’s not something charming about a swarm of 7 year olds crowding the ball, but seeing the game played this way could convert the most skeptical fan – and give little players something to emulate. There’s no better way to globalize kids’ perspective…If there’s one place where the world truly comes together, it’s here. And for kids, learning about what makes countries different – and not so different - was never easier. Finally, there’s nothing more empowering for kids than asking them to teach adults about something. While many of today’s parents grew up with soccer (like I did), many would admit that they still have a lot to learn.

So for the next few weeks, tune in to football the way the rest of the world plays. And revel in being a soccer fan like more and more Americans – even if it’s only once every four years.

Tags: research, kids, parents, Sports, family, Youth, Teens, tweens

Cyberbullying: Too Much Emphasis on the Cyber?

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Jun 28, 2010 @ 11:56 AM

In this morning’s New York Times, Jan Hoffman pens a thoughtful piece on Cyberbullying- an issue we’ve been hearing about on a daily basis since it first began hitting our collective radars right around 2003. With legislation pending in numerous states (see a paper by Nancy Willard of the Center for Safe and Responsible Use of the Internet on the legal ins and outs of this issue), we’ve seen an uptick of outrage and an increase in the interest of this topic.

In the article, Hoffman reveals the quandary schools find themselves in when faced with allegations of cyberbullying – particularly when it occurs off campus, and outside of school hours. And we know that these issues are complex to say the least. Tweens are still learning how to navigate the amoeba-like groups that seem to form, swarm and break up as quickly as a tweet...Throw in the ability and the opportunity to broadcast your every thought – positive or negative – to your whole group and beyond; it’s not surprising that tweens stumble as often as they succeed. Cyberbullying

But we were most struck by one pervasive attitude about cyberbullying that seems to seep through in the article, but isn’t addressed explicitly. The article appears on the NYTimes website under the sub-head, “Poisoned Web” (leading one to believe that this might be a section, alongside “Arts” and “Real Estate”). In her article, she exposes an email (that had already received attention from across the country) from a NJ middle school principle that read, “There is absolutely NO reason for any middle school student to be part of a social networking site.” And haven’t we all heard “those kids today and their Internet” from even the most progressive of our friends and relatives? In fact, I caught myself talking about teen relationships inappropriately publicized on Facebook just this past weekend…

It’s not that we deny the influence that social networking, texting and even AIM have on the way middle schoolers act. But instead of looking to technology as the cause of tween torment, and getting rid of it or forbidding it as the solution, maybe we need to say “thanks” to Facebook and Twitter for getting an evergreen issue on our radars once again. Middle school is hard. Ask any tween. Or rather, watch them and listen to the way they talk about their lives have changed. We place high expectations on them and sometimes forget to give them the scaffolding they need when it comes to social skills. The speed with which damage occurs is the change – but tweens excluding others, gossiping, name-calling, lying and manipulating? Not new. These things are likely to stand the test of time – and will remain as hurdles to growing up with a sense of self-efficacy intact – as long as we have tweens and middle schools.

But how do we protect our tweens from the emotional and sometimes, physical effects of bullying? We may not have the answer, but we do know that any solution must take into account the way that tweens really interact and truly talk. This means seeking to understand why they crave Facebook, Twitter, and inevitably, the next version of each of those communities, versus dismissing them as the bullies themselves.

(photo from NYTimes.com)

Tags: kids, parents, cyberbullying, MySpace, Youth, tweens, school, Facebook

The Unexpected Appeal of Lady Gaga

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Jun 23, 2010 @ 09:51 AM
In full disclosure, Lady Gaga got on our radar quite a while ago - right around the time that MTV's The Hills intro'd her as an emerging artist who Lauren Conrad had the chance to style. And we have to admit that we wouldn't have predicted this star's meteoric rise. Even moreso, we would never have anticipated that she would make the grade with kids and tweens specifically.

But Lady Gaga is nothing if not surprising. Her outfits make as much noise as her singing (and we mean noise in the nicest of ways). Her performances defy expectations - and gravity! And her androgynous look defies categorization.Lady Gaga

But maybe we should have known. When we look at Lady Gaga, we see many of the elements that define this generation's heroes...

  1. She's different. We don't just mean unique - we mean different. And while this might be what we think of as the kiss of death for "fitting-in-conscious" kids, she seems to do "different" in an aspirational way. She knows she's different, but isn't trying too hard to be. And her brand of standing out appears to come from a genuine creative spark versus a marketing machine. She frequently speaks of "thinking like an artist," and claims glam rockers like David Bowie and Queen are kindred spirits.

    Lady Gaga doesn't discuss her sexuality, but she openly embraces the LGBT community as her own. In the past, this might have been enough of a taboo to make them stay away. But for this generation, embracing a broader definition of "normal" is part of their DNA. And for tweens and teens, in particular, seeing someone who feels comfortable in their own skin despite standing out in so many ways inspires - not intimidates - them.

  2. She cares. Perhaps what makes her so appealing is that she not only stands out, but she makes others feel like she empathizes. She supports causes that she cares about - and has teamed up with Virgin Mobil to support homeless youth (based on her knowledge that 40% of homeless youth identify as GLBT). Gaga recently paired up with another stand out songstress, Cyndi Lauper, to raise the profile of the Viva Glam line of cosmetics from M.A.C. - who gives "every cent" of the proceeds to the M.A.C. AIDS Fund. With today's kids, tweens and teens growing up under the assumption that their brands will behave when it comes to pro-social activity (from being green, to being kind to animals to donating to important causes), Lady Gaga's inclination towards altruism contributes to her appeal among the youngest set.

  3. And finally, she's grateful. How refreshing! While much of her work speaks to struggles surrounding fame, she seems to handle most of the side effects of celebrity with grace. When Christina Aguilera dismissed comparisons to Gaga by saying she didn't know who she was, Gaga told the press that she was honored to be compared to Aguilera and should "send her flowers" since Aguilera's comments raised her public profile! Amidst a sea of stars who seem to behave badly and have lost their way, Gaga (barring the occasional pantless appearance at Yankees' games) may be the most revolutionary role model to hit the scene in a long time. And kids and tweens like their stars simple and simply good. While Gaga might never be simple, she might just be the good girl that no one saw coming.

Tags: Lady Gaga, Teens, music, tweens, MTV, MAC

Toy Story 3: Why Teens are Buzzing

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, Jun 17, 2010 @ 01:43 PM
It wasn't that long ago that kid movies were for kids. Adults suffered through them, while they tried to remind themselves that the smile on their child's face was enough entertainment.

But these days, kids' movies are a family affair. And some recent releases from Pixar - notably Oscar winning Up! - seem to be made more for moms than for the mini set. Perhaps most surprising, teens don't see kids' movies as babyish or boring, but as a sound option for a Saturday night out. 

For Toy Story 3, the appeal to teens rests not only in a great story, but in the sentimental pull of a saga that started righToy Story 3t when they were entering childhood. The first installment hit theaters in 1995, when today's teens were still toddlers. And Pixar acknowledges the history behind the story in a heart-wrenching trailer where we watch Andy grow up alongside his audience. If you're a mom of a little boy - 2 or 22 - grab your Kleenex before watching the Toy Story 3 trailer.

While the toys are still the heroes of Toy Story 3, the catalyst is not a kid, but rather a soon-to-be college student. Just like many of the franchise's first fans, Andy is moving away from home, separating from the place and the things that feel comfortable and heading into the great unknown. While the themes of belonging, growing and exploring are evergreens in kid culture, we can't help but think these real points of teen tension will resonate with a much older audience than its animated look would lead us to believe.

But will college students find their ways to the theater? And will teens choose Toy Story 3 over equally retro riffs like Karate Kid or teen's own Twilight?

Pixar hasn't taken this audience for granted. Beginning in April, Pixar screened a self-described "Special Cliffhanger Edition" of Toy Story 3 at 80 colleges in 22 states. The film whet the appetite of many a college consumer, and - if the blogosphere is any proof - Pixar succeeded in building the buzz. And perhaps more importantly, Pixar acknowledged that the generation that grew up alongside these mesmerizing toys wants to feel like they're part of the production - not just part of the consumption.

Adding to Toy Story 3's teen cred is its writer: Mike Arndt who won the Academy Award for the indie-gone-mainstream hit, Little Miss Sunshine. We can't speak for college students, but we kind of hope Buzz Lightyear picks up a copy of Proust, or Woody wiggles to Super Freak.

We're not sure how Toy Story 3 will fare in these first few days of summer cinema season, but we're betting on its success. As one teen we know wrote on his Facebook page, "Move over kids, I've been waiting for the next Toy Story for 11 years!!"


Tags: kids, parents, movie, family, Youth, Teens, tweens, money

Fickle or Foodie: What is – and Should Be – the Future of Kid Food?

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Jun 15, 2010 @ 04:49 PM
In a recent NY Times article by Susan Domus, Looking Past the Children's Menu, New York restaurateur Nicola Marzovilla asserts his belief that kids have the same right to couture cuisine as their parents - and that children's menus, with their cheaper, less interesting fare should be banished.

Marzovilla's rant is less about curmudgeonry and more about culture. If we acknowledge that food is more than just fuel, but rather symbolic - sustenance for the soul - than we have to agree with him. Steering kids towards chicken fingers, hamburgers and grilled cheese (regardless of the genre of food featured at the restaurant), the logic would go, not only deprives them of exploring taste, but also takes away their chance to experience different cultures. And for kids, tweens and teens today, it seems that knowing how to handle a menu is a necessary skill. (54% of elementary school aged kids buy lunch at school.)

Furthermore, this article made us ask: should we be catering (no pun intended) to our kids' in-progress taste buds, or should we be pushing them towards more sophisticated fare?

Many parents we talk to extol the virtues of having kids try new things, but our YouthBeat survey results show that kids continue to eat the basics over more complicated foods. While we've heard more than one city kid request a Dragon Roll or choose a spot that features Chicken Tikka Masala over chicken nuggets, only 1% of kids, 2% of tweens and 2% of teens in our survey reported eating sushi in the previous day. Compare this to 51% of kids (1st through 5th graders) eating cereal, 27% eating white bread and 21% eating apple sauce and it's clear that kids across the country aren't quite keeping up with their city counterparts. 

But as many parents know, and most marketers have found, sometimes it's just easier to give kids what they want. In fact, some of the biggest brands in the food category have built their business oKids Menun the notion that kids, tweens and teens can and should have food that they want - food that's developed with their needs in mind. Nutritionists might argue that this recipe could lead to disaster, but we can also point to categories in which healthy foods became kid staples with a little help from licensed characters and from simplifying adult styles (think classic example, yogurt to GoGurt). And more and more restaurants are making moms and dads happy by taking into account the needs of the whole family. Credit McDonald's with kick-starting this trend by offering mom a bonus salad for taking the troupe to PlayPlace.

And more restaurants (even in foodie feeding grounds like Brooklyn!) are taking a turn towards getting the littlest diners to lick their lips. And we think this is smart business - more and more parents report that they go out to eat because it's "fun for the whole family" (41% of parents of elementary school kids, and the number one reason, according to YouthBeat data), not to teach a lesson. Today's parents are likely to tote their toddlers along to adult restaurants rather than leaving them at home with take-out and a sitter. Shouldn't we make the experience easier for them, and more in line with how today's togetherness-focused families really dine?

We think the truth and the future probably lie somewhere in the middle. Getting kids to test exotic foods can be an uphill climb - and a battle that parents will probably resist. At the same time, challenging kids (and marketers!) to take a chance on new tastes might make meals a bit more interesting for kids, tweens and teens, and might make the job of food innovators and menu maestros a bit more fun! And perhaps families will find ways to bond over shared food as much as shared interests. Or in the least, food won't stand in the way of families dining the way they want to: less fine dining and more just feeling fine.

Tags: food, kids, parents, mom, menu, restaurant, tweens, money

Letting Kids and Tweens Get Silly

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Jun 11, 2010 @ 10:02 AM

Silly Bandz are hardly news at this point, but it seems that they continue to engage kids and captivate bloggers! We spoke about Silly Bandz at Silly Bandzthe Youth and Family Mega Event in May, and at the risk of adding clutter to the conversation, here’s our POV… 

For those of you who don’t know, a quick primer on the latest collecting craze…Silly Bandz hit our radar back in March when the little bracelets had just begun to translate into full-on fad in little towns and big cities across the U.S. These rubbery rings have been flying off shelves of the toy stores where they tend to be sold. The bracelets come in packs of 24 and come in thematic packs: princess, pets, dinosaurs and rock bandz, to name a few. And the trade-worthy trinkets have inspired so much excitement that many schools have prohibited them from the playground.

As Sean McGowan, a toy industry analyst has said, “In a high-tech era when children want iPods and iPads and Wii games, it’s refreshing to see something as simple as this get their attention. This is the lowest of technologies.” So why are today’s tuned-in and wired/wireless kids so intrigued?

First, collecting sits right at the sweet spot for kids and tweens. For kids, who I am is still expressed best by what I have – the brands I wear, the stuff I show off on the shelves in my room, and of course, the collections I’ve acquired. For kids, stuff is good. And having stuff that others want – that has value beyond the sum of its parts – is really good. Perhaps even better than having something for keeps is having the ability to use what you’ve got to get to the next level (i.e., a more coveted bracelet). Collecting Data

Second, Silly Bandz speak directly to the in-between stage that older kids and younger tweens are entering. Kids still love to play. While we tend to think of kids wanting buttons and flashing lights, they can still find fun in simpler things. But society increasingly makes toys taboo and babyish. Silly Bandz allow kids/tweens to show off their style sensibilities while keeping their secret. Grouped on their arms, these bracelets look like mere fashion accessories. Remove them and you can appreciate the play value inherent in dinosaur or truck shapes. Fashion meets action figures in an age-appropriate way.

Finally, Silly Bandz illustrate the scarcity principle – even moreso as bans take hold. The harder it is to find one of these bracelets, the more collectible it becomes. And with parents and teachers helping to fuel their “forbidden fruit” nature, they’re likely to maintain their sizzle through the summer.

And probably most of all, Silly Bandz show us that old ideas are often good ones when it comes to tweens. Silly Bandz don’t differ too much from the bands of the past: jelly bracelets (which, you may recall, became controversial because of the sexually explicit meaning that teens tied to different colored bracelets), friendship bracelets, and charm bracelets. It seems that each generation of kids makes this trend their own, but with their entire world turning towards technology, it’s still fascinating that these tech-free trinkets continue to make the grade.

Tags: kids, Youth, Teens, shopping, fashion, tweens, money, Silly Bandz

The American Family, Really Revealed

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, Jun 10, 2010 @ 08:18 AM

 

A new study just released by a group of over 70 social scientists at UCLA takes the kind of look at the American Family that many of us would love to do - and probably need to.

Read more about the study by clicking here.

The study, which recorded the every move of 32 Los Angeles area families from 2002 to 2005, is being touted as "The richest, most detailed, most complete database of middle-class family living in the world" (by a professor at UCLA who was not involved in the study). Think reality show on steroids - or think ethnography done the way we wish we had the budget and time to do it.

While this study is likely to yield insights and information about the way real families live for years to come, we think there are immediate ways in which the approach and the evidence can inspire researchers right now...

  1. The devil is in the details. Fans of ethnographies know that's the case. To uncover game-changing insights, sometimes you have to watch the whole game. The work of ethnographies can be - should be - tedious. It requires patience. And although in-home ethnographies in the market research space are more often ethnographic interviews than pure exercises in observation, real insight comes from what happens by accident versus what we impose. This isn't to say we should design ethnographies without structure - and without time limits. The number of families who would willingly allow market researchers into their homes for days at a time are certainly rare (and likely expensive to recruit!). But the preliminary results from this study show that paying attention to the minutiae of interactions, tonality and gestures can lead to monumental discoveries.
  2. Space matters. Studies discussed in the New York Times show that researchers looked at not just actions but surroundings. Ethnographies are designed to provide a more authentic look at people by keeping them in their own context versus transporting them to ours, but the space is more than just setting: it's a character in your story. Observing where actions took place - inside or outside specifically - and what spaces were designed for (e.g., a meticulously designed outdoor space, ideal for entertaining) versus what happened in contrast (e.g., life lived indoors) can tell us more about needs and unmet needs than any dialogue might.
  3. Finally, a real family is hard to find. For many good, practical reasons, we often find our focus groups populated with more stay-at-home moms than full-time working moms. We assume that moms are the only ones with influence in the grocery store. We show people with more time and less complex lives in our advertising. And we neglect the ways in which households with two full-time workers differ -and are alike - homes in which parents spend more time at home. And this is true despite the fact that many of you reading this are likely to live in or come from homes where both mom and dad (or some other configuration of caregivers) both worked. With demographics telling us that these dual-income households are not only the majority, but also the future, it might be time to plan our research around their schedules - and think of creative ways to incentivize them to share their valuable time with us.

Tags: research, kids, parents, Modern Family, mom, family, Youth, Teens, tweens

What Does New Research on Teen Pregnancy Really Tell Us About Teens?

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Jun 08, 2010 @ 02:39 PM
A study released this week from researchers at the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics revealed a shocking shift in teens' attitudes toward pregnancy. According to the study, which looked at data collected from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth, 1 in 5 unmarried teens reported that they would be happy if they became pregnant right now. While some people will surely read this as a sign of a society who has failed to prepare our youth morally, we think that this tells us something different about teens today.

First, the romance of parenthood is in the Zeitgeist. The celebrity magazines that many teens page through show pics of young Hollywood and their hopelessly adorable children, alongside stories about Lindsay Lohan (whose family life appears to be less than picture perfect). Ask any teen who Bronx, Suri, Zahara and Kingston are and they're likely to tell you without needing their famous last names (Simpson-Wentz, Cruise, Jolie-Pitt, and Rossdale, respectively). Is it really irresponsible for teens to admire the famous with families over celebrities spiraling out of control?

We know that this generation does not take family for granted. Rather than seeing parents as the out-of-touch enemy, most of the teens that we talk to site their parents as their heroes. They look for ways to spend more - not less - time with them. And they even agree with them on traditionally parent-child battlegrounds like music. Given this, is it any surprise that the idea of starting a family seems less like an immature risk and more like a step towards mature happiness?

Second, it reminds us that most teens cannot yet evaluate risk the way (most) adults can. This doesn't mean that they are illogical or incapable of reason - quite the contrary. It is a reminder, however, that teens are passionate - wonderfully so. They are impulsive - and they have a developmental imperative to try new things, to break away from the rules and limits that they have received from society and their parents. And these very same characteristics that propel them towards growth and authentic identity development can also put them in harm's way.

But they are also impressionable, and most teens that we talk to are willing to learn and be exposed to new ideas - if they are presented to them in a way that respects them and that refrains from judging them.

Finally, today's youth are coming of age at a time when sex education has all but disappeared from many schools. And it's no surprise that teenagers who do engage in sex (which is a number that continues to decline, as it has been for almost a decade) demonstrate less knowledge about contraception than the teens who came before them - with employment of the rhythm method (proven to be only 75% effective) on the rise (17% in the years in which this study was conducted, up from 11% in the previous period). But many experts believe that sex education must include not just a discussion of body parts, but must also involve thoughtful dialogue about relationships (both healthy and abusive ones), life goals and future planning and parenting.

Interestingly, pop culture might be less of a problem than a solution to the problem of teens taking parenthood lightly. Since this study was conducted, MTV launched its breakthrough documentary style show, 16 and Pregnant. 16 and PregnantIn a narrative format reminiscent of sister network VH1's classic, Behind the Music, each episode inevitably begins with the story of where it began: the relationship between future mother and father. But quickly, the story moves to the revelation of an unexpected pregnancy to both families and the father-to-be. And with the teen's decision to keep her child, the reality of pregnancy unfolds before us. While we see the future mom dream about who her child will be, we also see the struggles - big and small. She faces the fact that buying her fantasy prom dress and expecting a child do not go together. As predictably as we watch a music icon fall prey to the temptations of drugs and alcohol in Behind the Music, we see young love pushed to its limits by the overwhelming task of paying for diapers and struggling through sleepless nights. But while people inevitably judge the couple, MTV also gives the young mother a voice of her own. We see her as a person who didn't plan to sabotage her life, but who had a lapse in judgment that had unintended consequences.

And The Secret Life of the American Teenager, a hit with teens, includes two storylines about teen pregnancy. The show thoughtfully explores the complicated feelings that teens bring to this topic - and many others relevant to today's teens.

Only time will tell whether these shows can move the meter on teens' attitudes toward pregnancy. Perhaps their biggest contribution will be giving organizations who talk to teens about pregnancy a model to follow.


Tags: research, mom, Youth, Teens, MTV, pregnancy