FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Thinking Over Baby Think It Over

by

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.

Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Karl Grossman
Disaster Island
Thomas S. Harrington
What Nerve! In Catalonia They are Once Again Trying to Swear in the Coalition that Won the Most Votes
Pepe Escobar
Rome: A Eulogy
Robert Hunziker
Will Aliens Save Humanity?
Jonah Raskin
“Can’t Put the Pot Genie Back in the Bottle”: An Interview with CAL NORML’s Dale Gieringer
Stepan Hobza
Beckett, Ionesco, and Trump
Joseph Natoli
The ‘Worlding’ of the Party-less
Julia Stein
The Myths of Housing Policy
George Ochenski
Zinke’s Purge at Interior
Christopher Brauchli
How Trump Killed the Asterisk
Rosemary Mason - Colin Todhunter
Corporate Monopolies Will Accelerate the Globalisation of Bad Food, Poor Health and Environmental Catastrophe
Michael J. Sainato
U.S Prisons Are Ending In-Person Visits, Cutting Down On Reading Books
Michael Barker
Blame Game: Carillion or Capitalism?
Binoy Kampmark
The War on Plastic
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Cindy Sheehan – Rick Sterling
Peace Should Be Integral to the Women’s March
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
No Foreign Bases!
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Across the Boer Heartland to Pretoria
Joe Emersberger
What’s Going On in Ecuador? An Interview With Wladimir Iza
Clark T. Scott
1918, 1968, 2018: From Debs to Trump
Cesar Chelala
Women Pay a Grievous Price in Congo’s Conflict
Michael Welton
Secondly
Taju Tijani
Trump: Of Shithole, Rat Hole and Monkey Hole
Robert Koehler
The Wisdom of Mass Salvation
Ann Garrison
Full-Spectrum Arrogance: US Bases Span the Globe
Louis Proyect
Morality Tales on the American Malaise: the Films of Rick Alverson
January 18, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Destabilizer: Trump’s Escalating Threats Against Iran
John W. Whitehead
Silence Is Betrayal: Get Up, Stand Up, Speak Up for Your Rights
Andrew Day
Of “Shitholes” and Liberals
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail