As national teen pregnancy rates have increased in recent years, Natasha Thompson spoke with me about her perception of the media’s role in the relationship between media and viewers. Thompson is a 19-year-old teen mother of a nearly 2-year-old girl named Payton who was exposed to TV programs highlighting the lives of pregnant teens.
After learning she was pregnant during the summer of 2008, her junior year in high school, Thompson faced a large amount of opposition from her family and friends, not to mention her boyfriend at the time.
“Everyone I told wanted me to have an abortion, but I knew that was never an option for me,” says Thompson.
Like many young women who face a teen pregnancy, their relationships don’t work out with the father of their child. Originally from Seattle where she grew up, Thompson describes her relationship with Payton’s father as “on and off” mixed with continuous fighting. Despite their attempts to make it work for the sake of Payton’s well-being and future life, the couple split. Thompson picked up her whole life and newborn daughter and moved to Denver.
As a young person rather than an expert, Thompson characterizes each person as in control of their decisions which are generally portrayed through television as edited and misleading thus defaming the young people.
“I don’t think that MTV portrays the teen moms in a certain light,” says Thompson. “The mothers on the show make their own independent decisions.”
However, she believes that the portrayals of the young men through shows such as these are accurate. In many of the shows, the young men are portrayed as lazy, immature and simply not ready for the responsibility they are being forced to take on. In the original season of 16 & Pregnant, there is only one young man who is portrayed as a “good father” through the show as a whole.
Thompson spoke to this occurrence as well as the fact that many young relationships faced with a teen pregnancy simply do not last, such as her own.
“I think its about a 25 percent chance that young parents will stay together,” says Thompson. “I know many other young mothers, and out of all of them there are only two or three that are still a couple.”
While Thompson feels like the age and maturity level of the young men in these situations plays a significant role in their dedication to becoming a new father, she recognizes the likelihood of a young man sticking around is much lower as a teenager.
Through her trials and tribulations as a young mother, being exposed to these mediums throughout her pregnancy and new motherhood, Thompson believes her life has not been affected by the media’s portrayal of young parents.
“When I found out I was pregnant, I became a full time, line in nanny so I could gain experience with children of different age ranges,” says Thompson. “I didn’t watch TV to learn what to do. That’s how I gained my parenting skills on top of taking classes on early childhood development.”
Her personal experiences have lead her to believe a very different story than that portrayed by the media. For Thompson, “there is no such thing as a typical teen mother,” and those portrayals on television don’t tell the whole story of the young women.
"Every child is an individual, and requires their own unique style of parenting,” says Thompson. “My goal is to try to be consistent and provide a stable environment for my child.”