The Impact of Reality Television and Drama Series by Aneeta Pearson- Interview with a Social Worker


I would like to introduce a Social Worker in this interview regarding the featured story, “The Impact of Reality Television and Drama Series.” In this interview, I am asking the Social Worker to share personal views and professional experience, if any, related to 16 And Pregnant, Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2Teen Mom OG, and Shuga.

*Interviewee requested to remain anonymous. To maintain the integrity of the content, no edits were made by the interviewer of the interviewee’s responses.

Aneeta Pearson: Thank you for allowing me to interview you about this story.

Interviewee: You’re welcome!

Aneeta Pearson: Have you seen or heard about 16 And Pregnant, Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2Teen Mom OG, or Shuga? If so, what are your thoughts about the series?

Interviewee: I heard about Teen Mom. However, I am unfamiliar with MTV’s international show-Shuga. When Teen Mom originally aired around 2009, I was a new social worker practicing in an inner city and was responsible for providing case management services to women engaged in job search services-as part of their obligation to continue receiving government assistance.

I was initially intrigued by the premise of the show as it highlighted many of the challenges my own clients faced including history’s of abuse and neglect, having caregivers that struggled with addiction issues, homelessness, unemployment, absent family support, and shattered dreams of building the family that they so longed for during their own childhoods.

Despite the similarities, I found the series striking due to the fact that there did not seem to be an equal representation of the largest segments of women who ultimately become teen mothers. After several episodes into the series, I began to question just how interested mainstream society would be if the show highlighted the struggles of the already marginalized African-American and Latino women raising their children in the inner city of Detroit whom I worked with everyday. Unfortunately, their reality did not include any sympathy from the general public, spin-off television series, book tours, or a paycheck for sharing their reality with me day in and day out.

I think that the data abstracted concerning the impact of MTV’s Teen Mom should be closely explored to ensure that the findings are representative of a diverse sample of teens across the country. One could only assume that the teens who watch the show have the luxury of cable or access to internet based streaming services on a consistent basis to engage with the show enough to feel the full impact of its intention. Again, such luxuries were not the reality for the teen mothers on my caseload who were struggling to meet their families basic needs.

Aneeta Pearson: Have you had experience with youth or clients mentioning 16 And Pregnant, Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2Teen Mom OG, or Shuga, to make healthy decisions about sex or about practicing abstinence?

Interviewee: Over the course of my nine year career, I have yet to work with one youth who contributed healthy decision making-as it relates to sex or abstinence- to any television show. The overarching theme for better decision making and resilience in the populations which I have engaged have been  individuals, families, and community resources which we refer to in social work as “protective factors” that are present and ultimately minimize the impact of stressors and or life events.

Aneeta Pearson: In your opinion, should there be more reality televsion shows or drama series like 16 And Pregnant, Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2Teen Mom OG, or Shuga?

Interviewee: I certainly admire the premise of such shows or drama series but would like a greater representation of the entire population. I think there is a lot of potential to reach broader audiences and that we have only scratched the surface of the prevention work that can be done in our communities.

Aneeta Pearson: Thank you very much for your time and service as a dedicated social worker.

Interviewee: My pleasure!

Photo Credit: theorganist, Pixabay, License: CC Public Domain

By: Aneeta Pearson, MSW, MS


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