Raising a child would have to be one of the hardest jobs in the world. As a mother your maternal instincts always are demanding you to do ‘better’ for your child. New York subways have been recently filled with teen pregnancy prevention ads with the intention to reduce the number of young parents, which measured in 2011 was around 17,000 pregnancies alone in New York. However, the new campaign had received backlash from all corners of society, with many questioning whether the $400,000 campaign could have been spent on more positive attitudes towards teen pregnancy, such as providing resources to teen families to avoid them dropping below the poverty line.
Nevertheless, the campaign is out in public and with numerous signs all conveying the same meaning, that a child SHOULDN’T be raising a child. This idea is clearly evident when looking at the signifiers used within the advertisement. Each poster draws emotionally on the individual with features such as:
• Each poster displaying a child crying or in distress, exaggerating the pain in which a child would ‘apparently’ go through if raised by a teenage mother.
• The children’s eyes become of focal point of the picture, conveniently placed in areas where our eyes as viewers are drawn to.
• The use of rhetorical questions increases the pressure and feeling of uncertainty in viewers as they cannot provide the answers.
• Each poster also comes with a statistic used to intimidate the audience. Humans like fact, knowing the end result rather than jumping into uncertainty. These facts immediately influence the wider community into negative conceptions about teen pregnancy.
If we look beyond the superficial exterior of this ad, which obviously is to encourage safe sex and inform teens of the severity of raising a child, we begin to explore the issues of social stereotyping and ‘fear’ tactics. Controversial ads like this create negativity towards social groups, such as teen mothers, alienating them from society. In the long run is this really helping them? Or are these ads extending the problem. The idea of using ‘fear’ as a way of influencing society has been used in campaigns against smoking and obesity. However, research on using confrontation to shame and humiliate people in addiction treatment concluded that “It has failed to yield a single clinical trial showing efficacy of confrontational counselling, whereas a number have documented harmful effects, particularly for more vulnerable populations.” (Time, 2013).
The promotion gets the message across as clearly as a slap in the face. But I believe it also should encourage us to change our social concept towards teen pregnancy. As we know social intimidation leads to exclusion, thus an increase in ‘risky behaviour’. This ad challenges my personal ideological views to be more welcoming than excluding. As stated by the RH Reality Check group “Teen pregnancy doesn’t cause poverty, poverty causes teen pregnancy”.
Szalavitz, M, March 28 2013, Why New York’s Latest Campaign To Lower Teen Pregnancy Could Backfire, Time, Viewed 21/03/2014, http://healthland.time.com/2013/03/28/why-new-yorks-latest-campaign-to-lower-teen-pregnancy-could-backfire/