On March 3rd, the Human Resources Administration, with the backing of NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s office, released new public service announcements aimed at “hard-hitting facts about the money and time costs of parenting, and the negative consequences of having a child before you are ready.”
What the ads did instead was set off a firestorm of media attention about how the messages are full of racial profiling, negativity and shaming.
Blogger Keli Goff of African American news source The Root claims that the shaming is what makes the campaign so effective. “For anyone who thinks shame is not an effective motivator, ask any smokers if that's true.”
Planned Parenthood officials found that using city funds to promote scare tactics less than ideal and suggested instead that, “The City’s money would be better spent helping teens access Planned health care, birth control and high-quality sexual and reproductive health education.”
Others still claim that fear and education alike can only go so far; to stop the epidemic of teen pregnancy the $400,000 used to create the billboards and signs could be better spent.
Erika Christakis, blogger for Time Magazine Ideas, proposes what will really get teens to pay attention is to offer them the money simply not get pregnant. “Sex and money have always been drivers of human behavior,” she continues, “giving teens money to forestall pregnancy makes some people uneasy, but we use financial incentives in all areas of life for a simple reason: they work.”
Is she on to something? Could offering cash incentives to adults who manage to survive their teenage years without getting pregnant (or impregnating someone) actually work? If that money, say, goes toward helping a teen pay for college? When buzzwords like prevention and education are the ultimate goals for teens, maybe money should be one too.