Mayor Bloomberg of New York City is stirring up controversy again, this time in an effort to prevent teenage pregnancy. Since taking office, the Mayor has taken a lot of heat for his over-the-top initiatives to create a healthier city, including locking up formula in hospitals. Now, he’s taking aim at lowering the city’s teenage pregnancy rate, and once again, while his heart is in the right place, his tactics leave much to be desired!
Bloomberg’s newest campaign involves placing ads throughout the subway system featuring what some feel are racist and sexist images and text designed to terrify teenagers into not getting pregnant. One ad features a crying baby with a message that he is less likely to graduate high school because he was born to teen parents. What kind of message does that send to children of teen parents? It’s like saying “don’t even try; your parents doomed you to failure before you were even born.”
Scare tactics have been used since mankind first gathered in a cave. The very first cavemom probably told her child not to leave her sight, or the boogey-tiger would eat him. The thing is, scare tactics rarely work! If they did, no one would have left those caves and we’d still be banging rocks again each other trying to produce fire. They’re an antiquated method of prevention. When it comes to teenage pregnancy, modern answers are a much more likely solution. Besides, how many teenagers actually stop to look at the ads plastered in subways? If you’ve ever been to New York, you know that the entire city is one big ad!
Modern Solutions to Preventing Teenage Pregnancy
If scaring teenagers into abstaining from sex and avoiding pregnancy is not the answer, then what is? This is a question that has even the experts stumped. Although teenage pregnancy rates have declined a bit in recent years, they’re still alarming high. While I’m not an expert, I was once a teenage girl and do have a few ideas that could help prevent teenage pregnancy.
- Give teens a live surrogate baby! No, I’m not suggesting you hand over someone else’s precious bundle of joy to an inexperienced teen, but perhaps schools could work with daycare facilities to set up volunteer positions in the nursery. Teens can work under close supervision in the facility for a week and see what it’s really like to have a young baby. Carrying around a raw egg or even a really life-like doll for a week is not a true-to-life experience.
- Spend more time on open dialogue and less time lecturing. The moment you turn on your “lecture voice,” your teen tunes out. Bombarding kids with facts about teenage pregnancy isn’t a good solution. Opening up a two-sided dialogue about the risks and difficulties involved in being a teen parent is more likely to get your message across.
- Face reality and get that talk in early. It seems like both boys and girls are feeling pressured to have sex at a much earlier age than ever before. Kids as young as seven have been caught kissing- like really kissing, not just a peck on the cheek- in the schoolyard or at bus stops. While I’m not suggesting you give your toddler the sex education speech, don’t hold off until they’re in their late teens. By then, it could be too late. The sooner you talk to them about sex and teenage pregnancy, the sooner you can lay the groundwork for preventing it.
- Target teens where they actually spend time. Ad campaigns, when done correctly, can be effective. The Human Resource Administration in New York spent about $400,000 plastering ads in subways. That money would have been better spent placing ads on Facebook and other social networking sites where teens actually spend their time. Skip the scare tactics and create messages that empower teens to make better choices or direct them to places where they can get help if they’re feeling pressured.
The key to preventing teenage pregnancy is to find a campaign that speaks directly to teenagers on their level, rather than trying to scare them or lecture them into compliance. We all need to remember what it was actually like to be a teenager ourselves, then figure out a way to take a more modern approach to prevention tactics to fit teenagers as they are today.
What are your thoughts on the scare tactics? Do you have any suggestions to help prevent teenage pregnancy?