Young Parents AREN’T Entertainment

Young parnets.png

So, the news has broken over the last few days that the highly-controversial TV series “Teen Mom” is making a transatlantic leap, and a UK version is now in the works. This isn’t particularly news to me, as I’ve been following the production company on Twitter since they first messaged me, asking to Retweet their casting call.

Normally I’m only too happy to RT anything that gets sent my way, as long as it’s not racist/sexist/otherwise disagreeable. This time, however, I declined.

It’s not that I disagree with young parents appearing on TV. I was on “Baby Faced Mums” last summer, I’d be pretty hypocritical to say that programmes about young parents shouldn’t be made.

The difference is that “Baby Faced Mums” was pitched to me as a different kind of ‘young mum TV show’. They were looking for all sorts of mums who defy the stereotype – mums with more than one child, student mums, working mums, single mums, married mums – mums who don’t fit the mould that many people in the UK seem to think all young parents fit into.

The casting notice for “Teen Mom UK” states that it’s looking for “teen mums with attitude”. Considering the reputation, audience response and controversies associated with the US version (and the fact that the TV company are also responsible for “The Valleys”, the Welsh TOWIE/Geordie Shore) suggests that breaking down myths about young parents isn’t going to be high on this TV show’s agenda.

The US show was all about the ratings. MTV tends to be all about pulling in as many viewers as possible, and the way to do that? Sensationalism and drama. Young parents getting on with their lives and succeeding isn’t going to reel them in, is it? They’re going to want “teen mums with attitude”. Teen mums that the audience can turn into characters; forgetting that they’re real people.

That brings me to my other concern; the welfare of the girls. “Baby Faced Mums” was so well-made, and showed the honest side of being a young parent – no bumping up the drama to try and draw in bigger viewing figures. Despite that, we still got criticism online, purely for the crime of having a child at a young age. I was criticised for “abandoning” my baby to carry on with my studies. Another episode was referred to as “Fat Slags on Benefits” (charming, right?).

Whether it’s trolls or people who genuinely forget that they’re talking about real people’s real lives, those people exist, and they’re all too ready to make their voices heard. They’ll post it all over Twitter, Facebook, various internet forums – they’ll make sure everyone knows how they feel about young parents, and they’ll deliberately seek you out and make sure you know it too.

Thankfully Crackit Productions, who made “Baby Faced Mums”, were very supportive, because they were making a factual programme. Will True North, the makers of this clearly-entertainment-focused “Teen Mom UK” be the same? What sort of emotional and psychological support will be offered to the girls who end up taking part? It’s easy to scoff and say “Well, they’re making the choice to be on television”, but are they being given the full story?

Of course, it’s possible that True North will be exemplary in providing fantastic support to the girls. It’s totally possible that the UK version of “Teen Mom” will be positive and encouraging and give a great viewpoint of life as a young parent in the UK today. I still worry, however, that young women are signing up with no idea what it’s like to be on TV about being a young parent. The backlash is hard to deal with at times – very hard. With the series intending on focusing on just four young women, it sounds as though it will be very intense, with every move being scrutinised and – inevitably – judged by the public.

The US Teen Mom has featured relationship breakdowns, custody battles, hasty marriages, even hastier divorces, jail sentences, abuse and violence. Should we pretend this doesn’t happen to young parents? Of course not. Should we accept that something like this is promoted as “normal” for young parents? Definitely not. It’s not normal. That isn’t the reality for the vast majority of young parents, and it’s not too far-fetched to suggest that the intensity and media glare of being on “Teen Mom” has contributed to the endless waves of drama rocking the lives of the young women on the show.

I’m not saying they deserve to be criticised. I am saying that aspiring to be “just like the girls on Teen Mom” is a dangerous road to tread, because it hasn’t exactly been streets paved with gold for them.

I’ll be watching when it airs, and I’ll be on social media, waiting to respond to the inevitable backlash against these young women. I’ll defend young parents, and no doubt I – and many others like me – will end up sharing our own stories for the umpteenth time, in response to the people who believe the scrounging-free-council-house-workshy-teenage-mother stereotype. Even if the show is fantastic, and shows young parents in a great light the way “Baby Faced Mums” did, there will still be the critics and the trolls and the idiots who forget that it’s life. Therein lies the problem with entertainment-based TV shows about young parents.

We’re not a vehicle for higher viewing figures. We’re not living, breathing stereotypes. We’re not there for you to laugh at, or sneer at, or for you to criticise on Twitter like you can claim some moral high ground. We’re doing the best we can for our children and our families. Pregnant teenagers and young mothers need more support – not the alienation that comes from being turned into a figure of fun.

If you watch, I can only ask that you remember this post. Remember that the young women you’ll be watching are real people learning how to parent, just like any mother has had to learn to parent for the first time. Remember that they have feelings, and may not be supported or prepared for a media backlash. Remember that me and countless other young parents like me are posting every day, on social media, on blogs, on forums, proving that young parents aren’t just one big amalgamated stereotypical mess.

And if, at any point, you’re inclined to think “these are terrible mums”, or “this is car-crash TV”, remember that what you’re watching is young parents being exploited for ratings – and remember just how wrong that is.

Cuddle Fairy
A Bit Of Everything
Mummuddlingthrough
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16 thoughts on “Young Parents AREN’T Entertainment

  1. thereal007girl says:

    It’s a horrible thought isn’t it of these poor young girls who are going to be sought out on the estates of London and places like Salford and Manchester where the teens are particularly seen to have “attitude” and be offered money probably to be on the show. I’ll be watching too (as VFTS) and hoping we can provide support somehow to the thousands of young parents who will now face another backlash because they’ll be linked to the people in the show through their age. Shared on VFTS Facebook x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Little Pickle's Mom says:

    AH, saw these tweets going round asking for UK Teen Moms and I honestly couldn’t believe it. I distinctly remember turning to my colleague at work (who looks after our company social media channels) and saying ‘I’ve just seen the worst tweet I’ve ever read’ and proceeded to tell her about it.

    Unfortunately, a lot of TV today is made without the morals and ethics their subjects deserve. I sincerely hope they DON’T get many applicants for the show, and I hope the Teen Mums of the UK think very carefully before getting carried away with the prospect of being on TV. Let’s hope it’s a no-go.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. nightwisprav3n says:

    I watch Teen Mom in the U.S. I have watched it since 16 and pregnant and I can completely understand how the backlash of this show hurts not only the parents, but the children. One of the moms last year took her son off the show because she felt that him being associated with the show after they added one of the other and more controversial mothers back into the show, would hurt him. In the end, it didn’t matter because his face was out there and people were going up to a six year old and asking him how he felt about that other mother, someone he doesn’t even know very well. They asked a six year old! How dumb can people be? I worry about the kids in the show because once their faces are plastered all over the TV screen, people say and do the dumbest things to these kids. The reason the first moms are back is because MTV wants ratings! I hope the UK version does a better job. #bloggerclubuk

    Liked by 1 person

  4. randommusings29 says:

    It sounds like the sort of show that will put these girls into certain situations then edit their reactions to make them look bad if Geordie Shore etc are anything to go on. It is going to feed into the stereotype and the judgemental people will once again be up there on their high horses. I just hope they pay these girls well enough that they can sit back and laugh at the people calling them while knowing they are investing in their child’s future! #abitofeverything
    Debbie

    Liked by 1 person

  5. DomesticatedMomster says:

    I can’t relate to young moms as I didn’t become a mother until the ripe ol age of 36. I had a high school sweetheart from 8th grade to the summer before my senior year. But was lucky that my birth control worked. I also had much younger siblings than me and I had to help care for them A LOT and I remember thinking I DO NOT want to do this until I am at least 30. I have watched the MTV show…I believe it even aired in the town I grew up in Wyoming. It’s sad that they do feed off the drama just like most reality television and don’t show the true side of what it takes to raise a child these days. I am visiting from #BloggerClubUK. 💌Trista, Domesticated Momster

    Liked by 1 person

  6. cvnxena says:

    As a young parent, I face stigma all the time still in my day to day life and i am married with a son, not on benefits and still studying – sometimes people don’t care they have a stereotype and that’s that – I have seen a few episodes of teen mom in the beginning but it turned into this dramatic semi-real program. Even the girls say that it is dramatised and you can only imagine what it is like for the children when they grow up and see how their lives (and parents) were presented (whether they were in the wrong or not). Completely agree with you though, age can be a factor in parenting (but it can go both ways!) #BloggerClubUK

    Liked by 1 person

  7. PregnancyDost/Avani (@pregnancydost) says:

    The craze for reality TV TRP is bringing things to new lows everywhere. It is one thing to show the real life struggle for Teen moms to discourage it. But in the end the message is not correctly conveyed, it is always story & melodrama where it is twisted to be inspirational story rather then showing negatives of it.

    Like

  8. everythingsrosieandgeorge says:

    I totally agree with this! I feel awful for the young women who think taking part in something like this will be a good direction for their lives. It’s total exploitation of their naivety that the show might bring them money/fame and therefore a better life when if the U.S. examples are anything to go by it does way more harm than good. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. mummuddlingthrough says:

    This is one of those posts which make me wake up and smell the coffee. I so would (well, might) have watched that and probably thought all the things you described. Now, I see it in a whole new way. Thank you for enlightening me…TV really can be so manipulative can’t it? x Thanks for sharing with #coolmumclub

    Liked by 1 person

  10. agentspitback says:

    Brilliant post! Reality TV, unfortunately is not reality at all. I WILL remember your post. Where does social responsibility lie with mass entertainment? Thanks for sharing with #abitofeverything

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Becky, Cuddle Fairy says:

    Oh isn’t it awful that they are looking specifically for young mums with attitude?! I can just imagine what the show will be like. It’s a ploy for more ratings. Drama = ratings. It’s a shame that it’s at the expense of these young mothers & their children too! Thanks so much for linking up with our first #BloggerClubUK, we really appreciate your support & hope you will be back again this week x

    Liked by 1 person

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