When you were in high school, you might have been assigned to carry around an egg, or a baby doll, as part of your sexual education coursework. It provided just enough awkwardness, and annoyance, to make teens realize that being a parent can be difficult. Today, some teens are assigned to care for a robot baby. Unfortunately, these adorable robot babies don’t prevent teen pregnancy.
Robot babies are infant simulators with wireless programing and reporting capabilities. At first glance, you might think it was a real baby. The robot baby will cry when it needs to be fed, burped, rocked, or changed. It will coo when the teenager who has been assigned to be its “parent” meets the robot baby’s needs.
Some schools have started using robot babies as part of their sexual education courses. The robot baby can provide data such as how long it was sitting in a car seat, surrounding temperatures, when and how often the robot baby’s clothing was changed, care events (such as feeding and burping), and “mishandling events” (including shaken baby syndrome and insufficient head support).
The purpose, as before, is to show teens caring for a baby can be difficult, stressful, and frustrating at times. It gives them an idea of how much time and energy it takes to care for a baby. Some teens have a romanticized idea about pregnancy and caring for a baby. A crying robot baby, that wakes the teen up several times a night, adds a dose of reality.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that robot babies are good at preventing teen pregnancy. A study took a look at infant simulator programs in Western Australia. It involved 2,800 Australian girls who were between the ages of 13 and 15. A total of 1,267 teens had to take care of robot babies for an entire weekend. The other 1,567 girls had standard school curriculum on sex education and parenting.
The study followed the girls until they turned 20. Of the girls that had the robot babies, 17% had at least one pregnancy by the age of 20. Of the girls who had standard school curriculum on sex education and parenting, 11% had at least one pregnancy by age of 20.
It appears that while some teens find the robot baby experience to be annoying, other teens really enjoy it. Teenage girls who were already interested in becoming a teen mom find that the robot baby experience increased their interest in having a baby. Some critics think that the robot baby experience teaches coping skills to teens that are already at risk of becoming teen parents.
Image by Sara Neff on Flickr
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