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Video: Is teen parenthood glamorized on MTV?

  1. Transcript of: Is teen parenthood glamorized on MTV?

    MATT LAUER, co-host: We are back now at 8:07. MTV has another controversial reality show hit on its hands. It's called " Teen Mom ." Millions watch it each week, but does it send the wrong message when it comes to the serious subject of teen pregnancy ? We're going to talk to two of the stars of the show in a moment, but first here's NBC 's Janet Shamlian .

    JANET SHAMLIAN reporting: In the world of reality TV , it's the latest guilty pleasure.

    SHAMLIAN: The surprise hit, MTV 's "Teen Mom," follows four high schoolers through the perils of being young parents with all the hardships that entails.

    SHAMLIAN: It's a gritty look at what happens after labor and delivery when the real work starts.

    SHAMLIAN: Amid struggles with babies and boyfriends, the young women are also getting a slice of celebrity as cover girls on a number of magazines, raising

    the question: Is it glamorizing teen pregnancy ? Ms. SARAH BROWN (CEO, National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy ): To say that these shows on teen pregnancy are glamorizing is just the same as saying " The Biggest Loser " glamorizes obesity. That's just nonsense.

    SHAMLIAN: Catelynn Lowell gave up her baby for adoption.

    SHAMLIAN: A decision that's haunting her fiance, Tyler .

    SHAMLIAN: The couple chose their daughter's adoptive parents, Teresa and Brandon , after watching their YouTube video .

    TERESA: We just wanted to take the opportunity to give you a little glimpse into our lives and get to know us a little better.

    SHAMLIAN: Carly is now 16 months old. Catelynn and Tyler say they will start a family eventually.

    SHAMLIAN: The struggles of the teens go beyond diapers and day care.

    SHAMLIAN: One young mom and dad now battling over custody.

    SHAMLIAN: A sobering look at parenthood, through the eyes of a teen. For TODAY, Janet Shamlian , NBC News, New York.

    LAUER: Catelynn Lowell and her fiance Tyler Baltierra are featured on MTV 's "Teen Mom." Good morning to both of you.

    Mr. TYLER BALTIERRA: Good morning.

    Ms. CATELYNN LOWELL: Good morning.

    LAUER: Nice to see you. Before we get to what message this shows sends or does not send, let me -- why do you think it's so popular? A lot of people watch this every week?

    Mr. BALTIERRA: I think -- I think people can relate to it a lot. I think there's more and more -- teen pregnancy 's obviously, you know, a rising issue and I think people can relate to a lot of things that the girls on the show go through so far as being teenagers and moms.

    Ms. LOWELL: But also I've had a lot of mothers tell me like, 'I sit down with my children and I watch the show because I think that -- they say that they think that it's a good show to show their children, like if you have sex and get pregnant, like these are all the struggles that you're going to go through.

    LAUER: A cautionary tale.

    Mr. BALTIERRA: Yeah.

    Ms. LOWELL: Right.

    LAUER: Yeah, and it is a no-holds-barred look at the challenges couples like you have faced and the three other couples and moms as well. And yet there is this feeling among some people that in some ways this may glamorize teen pregnancy . You're laughing. Why do you laugh at that?

    Ms. LOWELL: Because I feel like -- I feel like -- to me, I feel like if you really sit down and watch the show that I don't think -- like I don't think it shows any single thing of glamorizing teen pregnancy .

    LAUER: And the fact -- and you know, I was just thinking as I was introducing you a second ago and I said, "two of the stars of the show." Maybe that's my -- maybe that's our fault. We shouldn't call you stars of the show.

    Ms. LOWELL: Yeah.

    LAUER: We should say one of the couples featured on the show.

    Mr. BALTIERRA: Yeah.

    Ms. LOWELL: Yeah.

    LAUER: But when all of a sudden when you start showing up on magazine covers and all the stuff that happens in this celebrity crazy world of ours, that's when people say, 'wait a minute'...

    Ms. LOWELL: Yeah.

    LAUER: ...'maybe they're gaining something from this.'

    Mr. BALTIERRA: Right. Yeah.

    LAUER: Is that -- do you think that's part of the problem?

    Mr. BALTIERRA: I mean, no -- I don't think it's glamorfyinganything because, I mean, it's -- I mean, they -- I mean, this -- all the stuff on the show is real. All the struggles we go through...

    Ms. LOWELL: Mm-hmm.

    Mr. BALTIERRA: ...and Macy and Farrah and everybody else. I mean, it's -- there's no way it's glamorizing anything, I don't think.

    LAUER: Is it maybe then you have to keep it in the front of your mind that when you go off and do things like this show or a magazine shoot...

    Ms. LOWELL: Mm-hmm.

    LAUER: ...or conduct an interview, you have to constantly remember to remind people why you're there in the first place and that it is a cautionary tale?

    Ms. LOWELL: Right, yeah.

    Mr. BALTIERRA: Absolutely, yeah.

    Ms. LOWELL: Yes, you have to. And be...

    LAUER: No, I mean, you can't just let it get to be where you're reality show stars.

    Mr. BALTIERRA: Right, right.

    Ms. LOWELL: Right, because we don't look at ourselves like that anyways.

    Mr. BALTIERRA: Absolutely not.

    LAUER: You made a very tough decision in your lives...

    Ms. LOWELL: Mm-hmm.

    LAUER: ...and that has been documented on this show, to give your daughter, Carly , up for adoption. She's now 16 months old.

    Ms. LOWELL: Mm-hmm.

    LAUER: Do you have any second thoughts about that decision?

    Ms. LOWELL: Actually, I don't.

    Mr. BALTIERRA: No. Not at all.

    Ms. LOWELL: Not at all. I mean, I get stuff everyday that reward me for my and Tyler 's decision, like just, you know, seeing stuff that happens back at home. And I 'm like, wow, I'm so lucky that she's not here right now. Or like, I'm so happy she's in a very good place, and...

    Mr. BALTIERRA: Well, we have peace going to sleep at night knowing that what we chose for her she's going to be with the life that she's living. So it's like it gives us peace.

    LAUER: You're both still in high school , I think both plan on graduating this year.

    Ms. LOWELL: Yes.

    Mr. BALTIERRA: Sure.

    Ms. LOWELL: Yep.

    LAUER: We wish you luck with that. You know, if there are other teenagers out there going through what you're going through in a much more private way...

    Ms. LOWELL: Yeah.

    LAUER: ...what would you say to them?

    Ms. LOWELL: I would say to talk to people. I mean, go to counseling if you need to because I know that when I was pregnant and I was young and knowing what I wanted to do for Carly I felt like I was alone all the time because I never talked to anybody and I feel like -- my number one thing though that I would say is just to always think about your child before yourself.

    Mr. BALTIERRA: Put them first.

    Ms. LOWELL: In every decision that you make in your life, from the point you're pregnant until the point that they're old enough to move out on their own, so.

    LAUER: And you're confident you're done that so far.

    Ms. LOWELL: Oh, yeah, 100 percent.

    Mr. BALTIERRA: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 9/16/2010 10:27:41 AM ET 2010-09-16T14:27:41

The featured players on the hit TV reality show “Teen Mom” are elbowing the likes of “Jersey Shore” stars Snooki and The Situation for cover space on entertainment magazines and tabloids. But one of the moms told TODAY she is trying to caution teens about the consequences of her actions — not prime herself for stardom.

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“We don’t look at ourselves [as celebrities],” Catelynn Lowell told Matt Lauer live on TODAY Thursday.

“I’ve had a lot of mothers tell me, ‘I sit down with my children and I watch this show.’ They say they think it’s a good show to show their children — like if you have sex and get pregnant, these are all the struggles that you’re going to go through.”

Discuss on TODAY Moms: Does ‘Teen Mom’ send the right message?

“Teen Mom” began airing on MTV in July and has become the channel’s second-highest-rated reality show, trailing only “Jersey Shore.” The show is a reincarnation of last season’s reality series “16 and Pregnant,” which chronicled four teens experiencing difficult pregnancies.

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At peace with their choice
Maci Bookout, Farrah Abraham and Amber Portwood, the other young mothers spotlighted on “Teen Mom,” all opted to keep their babies. But Lowell and her fiance, Tyler Baltierra, agreed to give their child up for adoption. They are also the only couple among the four who are still together.

When Catelynn and Tyler, both 18, handed their infant daughter over to her new adoptive parents on “Teen Mom,” it made for some of the most poignant footage in the series so far. But Lowell told Lauer that, despite reports to the contrary, she and Baltierra are at peace with their decision.

TODAY
Despite appearing on magazine covers, “Teen Mom” couple Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra say they don’t look at themselves as celebrities.

“I get stuff every day that rewards me for my entire decision,” Lowell said. “[I] see stuff that happens back at home, I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m so lucky she’s not here right now.’ I’m just happy that she’s in a very good place.”

Tyler added: “We have peace going to sleep at night knowing what we chose for her.”

Lowell and Tyler are both working toward graduating from their Algonac, Mich., high school this December and plan to put off marriage until after they graduate from college. Lowell told People magazine the couple’s dream is to have their daughter, now 16 months, serve as flower girl at their wedding.

‘Jersey Shore’ in reverse
And though they are on the covers of many magazines, Lowell and Baltierra see their reality show as the flip side to “Jersey Shore.” While that show spotlights fancy-free young people partying and living it up, “Teen Mom” reveals the often painful results of youthful hookups.

TODAY Moms: Real teen moms are not like MTV

“I don’t think it’s glamorizing anything, because all the stuff on the show is real — all the struggles that we go through, and Maci and Farrah and everybody else … no way it’s glamorizing anything,” Baltierra told Lauer.

The reality series also has a big supporter in the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The group’s CEO, Sarah Brown, scoffs at the notion the show makes teen pregnancy attractive. “To say that these shows on teen pregnancy glamorize — it’s just the same as saying ‘The Biggest Loser’ glamorizes obesity,” she told NBC News. “That’s just nonsense.”

Adds Amy Kramer, the group’s director of entertainment media: “The overarching message of this show is that once there’s a pregnancy, all roads ahead are hard. This show has the potential to show in devastating clarity how important it is to prevent a pregnancy in the first place.”

While the rate of teen pregnancies has recently gone down slightly in the U.S., the numbers are still alarming: Three out of 10 girls become pregnant before age 20, and one in six will become a mother. Overall, the U.S. has the highest incidence of teen pregnancy in the world.

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Lauer admitted that even he fell into the trap of calling Lowell and Baltierra “reality show stars,” but pointed out that the public becomes suspicious about the intent of reality show participants when they start appearing on magazine covers. Lowell insists she tries to stay on point when it comes to her show.

“I feel like if you really sit down and watch the show, I don’t think it shows any single thing of glamorizing teen pregnancy,” she said.

She added that the welfare of their child was in the forefront when she and Baltierra made the decision to give their daughter up for adoption, and she hopes other teen moms also think first about the child they are bringing into the world.

“I feel like my No. 1 thing I would say is, just always think about your child before yourself in any decision you make in life, from the point you’re pregnant until the point that they’re old enough to move out on their own,” Lowell told Lauer.

Join the discussion: What do you think of "Teen Mom?"

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