Posts about teen parents were unhelpful, mean spirited, and false
Dear citizens of Bennington,
Last week over a hundred young people in the community posted on Facebook in response to posts about being a teen parent in this community. Those of us who go to the Opportunities Program at Sunrise (Teen Parent Education) feel that it is unfair to stereotype teen parents and discriminate against us because we had children early on in life. Having a baby at a young age has actually changed our lives for the better. We could address these claims individually but here at Sunrise we choose to mindfully respond with facts and positivity.
When we came across the post that was negative about the population of teen parents in Bennington we were instantly offended. We all know what people think about teen parents: "They're lazy," "they live off the state for the rest of their lives," "they're less likely to graduate," "their kids are more likely to drop out."
People made comments saying we go to Sunrise just to collect welfare. We do not. We go to school where our children can be close to us. We are getting an education for ourselves and our kids. These posts were meant to be insulting. We ask all of our peers to stop and think before posting on social media. Is this post true, helpful, inspiring, necessary or kind? If the answer is no, just don't post it.
Were the Facebook posts true? One accusation was that Bennington has an increasing teen pregnancy rate. This claim is false. Vermont ranks 49 out of 51 in teen pregnancy rates, and according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, teen pregnancy rates have been consistently falling. The fact is, once a female has her menstrual cycle she is capable of getting pregnant. It wasn't that long ago in our culture's history that girls were married by the age of 14 and having babies right away. The fact is, a significant number of teenagers become sexually active in high school. Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of becoming pregnant. No one should be pointing fingers.
Was there anything helpful or inspiring about these Facebook posts? No. There were no solutions or compassion. Perhaps volunteering to organize after school programs for young teens would be a more proactive way to make a difference in our community.
Complaining and judging does not create solutions. It should never be anyone's intention to be mean and derogatory. Getting pregnant, at any age, doesn't make you a terrible person. In fact, it's sacrificing your own immature behavior for a more mature lifestyle. Raising another life is an incredible responsibility.
The Facebook comments were not necessary. It is mean and hurtful to try and shame teen parents. We all show up every day for our children, family, and ourselves. We work hard to complete our education. We have dreams and hopes. We will thrive and become active and informed members of our community.
We do appreciate the few people who posted kind words of support and in defense of teen parents. It is so much better to be kind with words rather than perpetuating stereotypes. We are no different than our peers: we deserve respect and compassion. Put yourself in our shoes for a moment, treat others the way you would want to be treated and please stop and think before posting on social media.