FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Thinking Over Baby Think It Over

It’s 3:30 a.m.  We wake to sounds of a crying baby, coming from our son’s bedroom. But our son is 15. Is it the ghost of Infancy Past? No, it’s part of a school  sex education experiment. Our son’s robotic baby has erupted in the middle of the night to demonstrate the “joys” of teen parenthood.

But the “baby” cries on, insistently, with no response from our son, though they are sharing the same bed. We have to get up and rouse him from his deep sleep. It turns out the baby had already awakened him by crying at 1 a.m. And now he is too exhausted to respond again without an extra prompt. Unfortunately, in just a few hours our son will have to get ready for school, despite his restless night. Is this a lesson he is meant to learn?

Our son’s school has signed on to a program called Baby Think It Over, meant to demonstrate to tenth graders how the responsibilities of child care may impinge on their carefree teenage pleasures. Student “parents” are fitted out with electronic bracelets to ensure that only they can offer the care their robotic babies need, whether it is a bottle or a hug or a diaper change.

One unfortunate result of this exercise is the negative reaction some caregivers have to their robotic charges. Some students see these baby dolls only as a hassle. They feel no warmth or emotional attachment to this computerized plastic construction. It is not, after all, flesh of their flesh or the product of their love. Just a school assignment, somewhat stranger than most.

According to a 2016 study reported in Australian media: “The virtual infants made by company Realityworks are used in around 2,000 schools in Australia, 67 per cent of schools in the US and in 40,000 institutions in 89 other countries in a bid to deter teenage girls from getting pregnant.

“The doll reports on mishandling, crying time, the number of nappy changes and general care…”

Dr. Sally Brinkman of the Telethon Kids Institute, who studied the effects of the program, as reported in the medical journal, Lancet, reported that: “Some of the teenagers locked the baby on a garden shed, others used blue-tac to stifle the microphone and some parents called in to ask how it could be turned off. However, most of the girls became very attached to the robot and some did not want to hand it back.”

The biggest problem with Baby Think It Over (now renamed RealCare Baby) is that “the infant simulators do not reduce the risk of pregnancy in teenage girls.

“In fact, the risk of pregnancy is actually increased compared to girls who didn’t take part in the intervention,” said Dr Brinkman.

Why using the electronic dolls should promote rather than prevent teen pregnancy is a matter of speculation. Some students said they thought caring for a “real baby” would be easier than caring for a doll. Some researchers hypothesize that students enjoyed their simulated parenthood more than anyone might have anticipated.

Whatever the reasons, studies as early as 2001 by the National Institutes of Mental Health showed that using electronic dolls to deter teen pregnancy was ineffective, and in fact, counter-productive. Our son, who began by treating his plastic charge dismissively, finally warmed to the task and was over time more solicitous of the doll’s welfare, even as he multitasked, feeding and rocking the baby while he finished his homework.

The real question is, with various reputable studies showing that Baby Think It Over may not only be futile, but may in fact actually promote teen pregnancy, why do schools continue to go to the considerable trouble and expense of participating in that well-meaning but misguided program?

Notes.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/10699132/?i=4&from=/11393931/related

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/pregnancy/baby-simulators-meant-to-deter-teenage-pregnancies-actually-increase-the-chances/news-story/507e8a58ce43c46254570c4cd33c0210

https://www.wsj.com/articles/robot-babies-not-effective-birth-control-australian-study-finds-1472196507

More articles by:

James McEnteer’s most recent book is Acting Like It Matters: John Malpede and the Los Angeles Poverty DepartmentHe lives in Quito, Ecuador.

February 21, 2019
Nick Pemberton
Israel, Venezuela and Nationalism In The Neoliberal Era
Chris Orlet
The Bill and Melinda Gates’ Fair Taxation Scaremongering Tour
Bruce E. Levine
“Heavy Drinking” and the NYT’s Offensive Obit on Herbert Fingarette
Lisi Krall
This Historical Moment Demands Transformation of Our Institutions. The Green New Deal Won’t Do That
Stephanie Savell
Mapping the American War on Terror: Now in 80 Countries
Daniel Warner
New York, New York: a Resounding Victory for New York Over Amazon
Russell Mokhiber
With Monsanto and Glyphosate on the Run AAAS Revokes Award to Scientists Whose Studies Led to Ban on Weedkiller in Sri Lanka and Other Countries
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Fake National Emergency Moves America Closer to an Autocracy
Alex Campbell
Tracing the Threads in Venezuela: Humanitarian Aid
Jonah Raskin
Mitchel Cohen Takes on Global and Local Goliaths: Profile of a Lifelong Multi-Movement Organizer
Binoy Kampmark
Size Matters: the Demise of the Airbus A380
Elliot Sperber
For Your Children (or: Dead Ahead)
February 20, 2019
Anthony DiMaggio
Withdrawal Pains and Syrian Civil War: An Analysis of U.S. Media Discourse
Charles Pierson
When Saudi Arabia Gets the Bomb
Doug Johnson Hatlem
“Electability” is Real (Unless Married with the Junk Science of Ideological Spectrum Analysis)
Kenneth Surin
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Another Boondoggle in Virginia
John Feffer
The Psychology of the Wall
Dean Baker
Modern Monetary Theory and Taxing the Rich
Russell Mokhiber
Citizens Arrested Calling Out Manchin on Rockwool
George Ochenski
Unconstitutional Power Grabs
Michael T. Klare
War With China? It’s Already Under Way
Thomas Knapp
The Real Emergency Isn’t About the Wall, It’s About the Separation of Powers
Manuel García, Jr.
Two Worlds
Daniel Warner
The Martin Ennals and Victorian Prize Winners Contrast with Australia’s Policies against Human Dignity
Norman Solomon
What the Bernie Sanders 2020 Campaign Means for Progressives
Dan Corjescu
2020 Vision: A Strategy of Courage
Matthew Johnson
Why Protest Trump When We Can Impeach Him?
William A. Cohn
Something New and Something Old: a Story Still Being Told
Bill Martin
The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall
February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail