I've always felt there was at least a little something useful to be gained by watching reality television. The Food Network's Chopped, for example, gives me kitchen inspiration. If the professional chef contestants on that show can make a three-course dinner from pigs knuckles, eye of newt and clotted cream, I should at least be able to boil some pasta come 6 p.m., right? And five minutes of Dance Moms makes me very thankful my daughter never graduated from Fairytale Ballet.
Each and every rose ceremony on The Bachelor serves as a reminder that I am lucky to be happily married already. Ditto the Real Housewives of just about anywhere.
But evidently moms like me aren't the only ones who can be positively affected by what they watch on what is often considered the lowest common denominator of television.
As it turns out teens, fortunately, can be, too.
Despite critics who contend that teen pregnancy reality series like MTV's 16 and Pregnant and its Teen Mom spinoffs glamorize teenage parenthood, the shows, which portray the incredible difficulties surrounding youth pregnancy, may, according to new research, turn out to help teenagers make better decisions about contraception.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the "16 and Pregnant" series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies. In their paper, economists Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine examined Nielsen ratings, Google searches and social media conversations, and discovered that teen birth rates declined faster in areas where youth were watching more MTV. According to the research, 5.7% of the overall drop in teen births between the series' debut in summer of 2009 through the end of 2010 can be attributed to viewing 16 and Pregnant.
Each episode of the show features a different girl, her story told documentary style. But it's likely not just the pain of childbirth or the discomfort of morning sickness that serves as a screen-based form of teenage birth control.
Now as far as I know, none of my kids has watched much 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom. We just aren't much of an MTV family; I guess I still haven't forgiven the so-called Music Television Network for no longer playing music. But there is no question, when the time is right (and she's almost 12-the time may be now), I will definitely sit down and view the series with my daughter. I plan to take every possible precaution and deterrent I have at my disposal to make sure she doesn't end up struggling like Maci (season 1), Nikkole (season 2) or Jordan (season 4).
Just as importantly though, I'll recommend that my teenage sons take a look at a few of the episodes online, too. No, they may never be the ones that will suffer from swelling, stretch mark or Braxton Hicks contractions. But the program also showcases boys who have found themselves in the emotionally overwhelming position of becoming fathers way before the appropriate time. I want them to fully understand that teen pregnancy is not just a female issue; the series can serve a cautionary tale for boys, as well.
Yes, this reality-TV-watching mom is heartened to know that there is more than just human growth and development classes and "The Talk" out there to help dissuade my kids from unprotected sex. Because I am in absolutely no hurry to become a reality-TV-watching grandmother.comments powered by Disqus
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.