Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bloodsucking Vamps and Onscreen Love

Another Halloween season has passed us and the holiday season is fast approaching!  Most people are making plans for Thanksgiving and being with friends and family.  But there is one date that seems to be more important to most teen girls this season, and that date is November 20th, 2009.  You may ask yourself “Why this date?” or “Why this random Friday?”  November 20th is the day that tweens and teens alike have been waiting for, the day when New Moon, the second installment of the Twilight Saga, will become open to the public.  

After one year of waiting as patiently as teens can, the wait is finally over, and on the screen Bella Swan and Edward Cullen will continue their fantasy romance under the watchful eyes of hundreds of thousands of young people.

What does the release of a movie have to do with teen pregnancy?  It is related because young people today are more emotionally connected to media than any other source, and that means that media has a larger influence over our young people and how they examine and value relationships around them.
The Twilight Saga is about young “love” or young “obsession” and revolves around Bella, a junior in high school and her love and devotion to her boyfriend who is significantly…older.  Edward is the “love of Bella’s life”, and he is a vampire.  That should stop us right there from analyzing this further, however, this is one of the most successful young adult novels to date and has sparked a worldwide frenzy, specifically among tween and teenage girls, so it is important for all caring adults in their lives to have a handle about what this mammoth contains!

Bella falls into obsession with the Vampire Edward, and risks life and limb to be with him, no matter what, going so far as to run away from home and put herself into danger.  A danger from which she doesn’t save herself!

Bella’s entire being is for Edward.  She does what Edward says when he tells her to, he randomly leaves and comes back throughout the entire book series (and reportedly will do the same in the movie versions as well).  He continually puts her in danger, and she never stands up for herself.  She convinces herself that all she has to do is figure out a way to stay with Edward and everything will be fine.  Even if that means committing the final sacrifice of life (so she can live forever as a vampire, but still!)  All of these choices for a 100 year old boy!  

That above may not sound as much fantasy now that we have broken it down into actions instead of mythical creatures (werewolves show up at some point along with vampire hybrids).  Many of us as caring adults of young people have seen our teenage females and tween females do uncharacteristic things contradictory of their personality for the boy they “luuuuuuvvvvvvvvv” (the way my sister says it!), and we have seen how their plans and their desires for their own success get sacrificed.
In this time of communication with our young people (October was “Let’s Talk” Month), we are constantly looking for teachable moments, and this one is just around the corner.  Take a second to brush up on the characters’ names and associations, and break out a conversation with your young people about good relationships and bad relationships, what they want for themselves and what they see in their future, and how to hold onto those goals why navigating the scary world of teenage “luuuvvvvv”!  And bring some popcorn!
by: Taylor Wilson, Technical Assistance Associate, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
Contact Taylor:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Payment for Pregnancy Prevention?

I know that by today's standards, my teen years were fairly ideal and the clear exception to the rule. But have we taken the quest to motivate today's young people too far?

I come from a long line of educators. In my house growing up, graduating from high school was the norm, going to college was expected, and education even beyond that was encouraged. I also lived in a two-parent household (my parents recently celebrated their 40th anniversary), had the ability and opportunity to be involved in sports and other extracurricular activities, and received a strong, consistent message that having children was what you did after college and marriage. I know that by today’s standards, my teen years were fairly ideal and the clear exception to the rule. But have we taken the quest to motivate today’s young people too far?

Perhaps you’ve heard the buzz lately about the College Bound Sisters program in North Carolina. The program provides weekly 90-minute sessions on abstinence and contraceptives to girls who are 12-18, have never been pregnant, have a sister who is a teen mom, and have a desire to go to college. Funded through a state grant and private donations, College Bound Sisters costs approximately $75,000 a year with results so far of only 6 in 125 enrollees getting pregnant after being a part of the program for at least six months. Sounds good, doesn’t it? So what’s the problem?

Depending on who you ask, there is no problem. But I, for one, am bothered by the fact that College Bound Sisters pays these teen girls $1 a day for every day they do not get pregnant. The money is put into a fund which is released to the girl only after she enrolls in college.

And I’m not in the minority with my concerns. Opinions on the program span from full support to absolute horror. On the plus side, statistics show that siblings of teen moms are at greater risk for getting pregnant themselves which explains the target audience. Research also shows that young people with higher educational aspirations and goals for the future tend to be more motivated to avoid pregnancy, and having access to medically accurate information on abstinence and contraception provides young people with the knowledge and skills needed to make healthy decisions related to sex. But there are still many unanswered questions.

Is PAYING a teen girl not to get pregnant the best way to motivate and encourage her to make healthy decisions? Where do programs like these leave males – without whom there would be no pregnancy? And does the program actually help prevent pregnancies or just encourage young people to get abortions so they can still cash in for college?

Beyond all of that, though, I wonder what expectations this creates among our young people. Will they believe that making decisions in their own best interest should always come with a paycheck? Will parents see these programs as a way to delegate their own responsibilities to teach their children to someone else - while building a college fund along the way? And ultimately, will we create another generation of young people covered in band-aids but not actually healed of the underlying problems? Maybe my ideal childhood created an idealist out of me, but I think there has to be a better way.