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A force behind the lower teen birthrate: MTV's '16 and Pregnant'

After rising between 2005 and 2007, the US teen birthrate fell dramatically in 2009. What happened? For one, MTV began airing a tough reality show called '16 and Pregnant.'

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Maci Bookout (c.) and Farrah Abraham (r.) from MTV's '16 and Pregnant,' and Bristol Palin create awareness for the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, held at Lighthouse International Conference Center in New York City on May 5. 2010.

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For years, MTV has made a living, its detractors would say, peddling rock-star debauchery to wide-eyed teenagers.

But according to a new government study that shows the US teen birthrate falling dramatically in 2009 after a five percent increase from 2005 to 2007, experts say the network may have redeemed itself with its gritty "16 and Pregnant" documentary series, which many teens credit with opening their eyes to the consequences of unprotected sex and early parenthood.

A report released Tuesday by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy shows that parental influence is the most-cited factor by teens when it comes to avoiding teen pregnancy.

But the report also specifically cites the popular "16 and Pregnant" series, indicating that 82 percent of the teens who watch it say the show helps them better understand the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenthood – and why they should avoid it.

"Entertainment media is one of the nation's favorite punching bags, but we have to acknowledge that when we're talking about teen pregnancies media can be and often is a force for good, and that is particularly true when it comes to shows like '16 and Pregnant,' '" says Bill Albert, a spokesman for the National Campaign. "Some critics say these shows glamorize teen pregnancy, but our survey data shows that's not the case – that not only do they not glamorize it, but teens who have seen it suggest it makes the realities of teen parenthood more real to them."

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