Parents: Forbid Your Teens From Watching MTV's '16 and Pregnant'

by Raina Kelley

Do you remember being 16? If you were anything like me, you responded to the admonitions of your elders with eye-rolling, loud sighing and deep suspicion--if not an outright refusal to believe anything a grownup said that didn't directly correlate with your own core beliefs. I grew up in the age of "Just Say No" and laughed at the idea that any adult, even a first lady or Mr. T, could understand adolescent behavior better than I. That's why parents should approach 16 and Pregnant, MTV's newest documentary series, with great trepidation.

That's because 16 and Pregnant, which airs tonight at 9 p.m., is a bleakly realistic look at six girls trying to navigate pregnancy, babies and high school. Unadorned by the cutesy graphics and "expert" witnesses of other "ripped from the headlines" reality shows, 16 and Pregnant does not glamorize these girls lives or choices in any way. Watching the dreams of starry-eyed adolescents come crashing down is usually the stuff of Disney. But in 16 and Pregnant, there are no happy endings.

In an ideal world, this series would be a cautionary tale for any teenager tempted by the idea of unprotected sex. But in the real world, adolescents are usually repelled by teachable moments. And so I fear that this show, which really deserves all the awards it's sure to receive, may end up missing completely the very audience it needs to reach.

So parents, beware. Don't DVR this show and expect to sit down with your kids for some "very important family time." That won't work. It just embarrasses teenagers, making them physically incapable of paying any attention. Instead, plan a stealth attack. Change the channel abruptly when they enter the room, then excuse yourself. When they press "last channel" (and they always do), they will not be able to avoid being riveted by this show. Better yet, tell them not to bother watching at all: 16 and Pregnant will then become irresistible.

Just don't say it's important or thoughtful or smart or required (even though it is and should be). That'll be the kiss of death, trust me.

(Are you a teenager? Then don't you dare watch these excerpts from 16 and Pregnant. We are warning you. Step away right now. You'll be in big trouble, missy.)