Experts blame the increase of teen births on a number of factors, including a rise in highly publicized teen pregnancies (including Palin's), abstinence-only programs and a disproportionate number of pregnancies among minority teenagers.
According to Brenna Owens, a social worker at CIS, a middle school in the South Bronx, whose students attended the Candie's forum, teens can be receptive to abstinence messages.
"But it depends on what a child is ready to hear in the moment," she told ABCNews.com.
"They are already exposed to sex in music and on television," said her colleague, literacy teacher Sonia Hameed. "It's pumped at them all the time. It looks glamorous, but they don't see the impact."
The Candie's Foundation is hoping Palin's voice will be just one of many that helps reverse the growing teen birth rate. They advocate both abstince and information on contraception.
"We know having a baby as a teen is really tough on the teen mother and very challenging for the children," said panelist Sarah Brown, CEO of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. "And the economy is so tough that most teens can't finish high school. The teen years should be used for fun."
A survey by Seventeen magazine showed that most teens cited three "emotional reasons" for having sex.
"When teens have sex, they say it just happens," said editor and panelist Ann Shoket. "They feel swept away, they are not using birth control properly and they are afraid to insist on condoms."
One bright spot in the study revealed that 70 percent of teens surveyed said they might hesitate on having sex "if they had plans for the future."
"Feeding your dreams gives you something to plan," Shoket said.
"I wasn't thinking about the future," she said. "Think before you act."
"I don't believe in abstinence, but I think Bristol Palin could have some influence," said Delwara Begum, a 16-year-old from Beacon High School in Manhattan. "I don't believe it's realistic, but she is speaking out and giving some kind of caution."
Still, her classmate disagreed.
"When you say, 'Don't have sex,' teens will rebel," Ajanay Squire, 16, told ABCNews.com.
Many studies have shown that abstinence-only programs, like those funded by the federal government, are ineffective, according to David Landry, senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute, which advances sexual and reproductive health worldwide.
"Good comprehensive sex education does an excellent job in promoting abstinence," he told ABCNews.com. "It is the most effective way of avoiding pregnancy.
"But the problem with abstinence alone, it's terribly ineffective and young people like Bristol Palin do not adhere to it. And when they don't have the proper information and when they are sexually active, they often have unprotected sex."
"I just feel for [Bristol Palin]," said Landry. "She seems to be caught in the middle of a political firestorm, and I'm not sure how much of it is by her own free well. Circumstances propelled her."
Some teens wondered if a high-profile teen like Palin could understand their own situation.
"It's about peer pressure," said Joy Ocean, 16, from Brooklyn's John Dewey High School. "It's a little overwhelming, and she hasn't been in our shoes."
"I saw [Bristol Palin] on TV and how hard it was on her with her mother in the spotlight," said Mignonette Brathwaite, Ocean's 15-year-old classmate. "She knows her mother is worried about her political campaign. She wouldn't want her to mess up her image."
Their classmate, Rose Acevado, 16, knows the pain of a teen pregnancy. Her sister suffered a miscarriage after hiding a pregnancy for nine months. Today, her sister is pregnant again.
"This is a good thing," she said of the message of abstinence, but not from Bristol Palin. "We'd take it from someone true and honest, not a celebrity."