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Do robot babies increase teen pregnancy rates?

Do robot babies increase teen pregnancy rates?

When I was 17, I had a baby.

Granted, I only had him for a weekend. And he was a robot. Still, that kind of experience sticks with you.

My weekend with my robot baby was a requirement for my high school child psychology class. Back then, my robot baby was called ‘Baby Think It Over’. Today, he would be known as a ‘RealCare Infant Simulator’. It sounds more techy now, but the concept is still the same – give teenagers a taste of parenthood in the hopes that they hate it and don’t go get knocked up.

But here’s the thing – a recent study in medical journal The Lancet showed that these robot babies might actually make teens MORE likely to have babies.

A randomised study of nearly 3,000 Australian schoolgirls aged 13-15 split them into two groups: one that received standard sex education classes, and one that received a ‘virtual infant parenting programme’ that included the robot babies. It found that 8% of the girls in the robot baby group went on to have babies, compared to 4% in the control group.

I found out about the study on one of my favourite podcasts, The Longest Shortest Time, and it made me think about my own experience with a robot baby.

Which, by the way, I named Elliott. After depressed indie-rock musician Elliott Smith. Because that’s the kind of thing you do when you’re 17.

Did the robot baby give me a realistic idea of what parenthood is like?

Hellllll no.

Ways that my robot baby was like a real baby:

  • He cried at all times of the day and night

Ways that my robot baby was unlike a real baby:


When Robot Elliott cried, the only way to stop him was to insert a key into him and hold it there until he stopped. This was supposed to simulate feeding. They key was attached to my wrist by one of those bands that you can only remove by cutting it off, so I was the only one who could ‘feed’ him.

So yeah, he woke me up in the middle of the night, and it sucked. But all I had to do was roll over and stick in the key in order to get him to stop. I didn’t have to get out my sore, leaking boobs so he could latch onto them and drink for 45 minutes while I desperately tried to keep myself awake by watching RuPaul’s Drag Race on my iPad on mute. I didn’t have to try to sneak Robot Elliott back into his moses basket without waking him up, and Robot Elliott never did a big, smelly poo just as I was drifting back off to sleep.

Robot Elliott only ever wanted that key. I never had to try rocking him, changing him, winding him, cuddling him, giving him Calpol, taking him for walk, giving him a dummy, singing nursery rhymes or blasting white noise in order to get him to stop crying. Robot Elliott never made me cry myself because nothing was working. He was simple. Key in. Hold it there. Crying stops. Key out.

This was 17 years ago, and RealCare Infant Simulators are more sophisticated than Baby Think It Over was. When they cry, you can try feeding, changing, rocking or burping them in order to get them to stop. The dolls also record how long you kept them in their car seat, surrounding temperatures, clothing changes, whether you supported their head properly, and whether the baby was shaken. (Baby Think It Over recorded shaking events too, but that was it.)

So are robot babies more realistic now? Yeah, probably. But nothing can really simulate the full-body exhaustion that a real baby brings on. The all-emcompassing fear that you’re going to drop them on their soft little heads. The frustration that you feel when your baby feeds for an hour then pukes it all back up onto your top. That s**t is impossible to reproduce.

Did the robot baby stop me from being a teen parent?

I didn’t have a baby until I was 32, so that looks like a win for Robot Elliott – but in reality, it had nothing to do with him. I knew I wasn’t mature enough to have a baby as a teenager long before I saw Elliott’s rubbery little face. I still didn’t think I was mature enough at 32. I’m still not sure that I am.

So why are robot babies making teens more likely to become young parents?

Some scientists theorise that it’s because the teens receive positive feedback from their peers and family when they play with the robot babies at an age when they crave attention. Or maybe it’s because caring for a robot baby gives them the impression that parenting is as easy as a simple cycle of feeding, rocking, burping and changing.

To any teens that are reading this: parenting is REALLY, REALLY F***ING HARD.

You won’t get a proper night’s sleep for at least a year. Your friends will invite you out but you won’t be able to go because it will interfere with the baby’s naptime, and you haven’t had a shower in three days anyway. You will live in leggings and baby puke-stained hoodies. You will worry constantly that you’re getting it wrong.

I’m not saying that it’s all bad. It can be great. The best. But it’s the kind of thing you should only do once you’re ready to throw everything that you have into another person. And I mean everything. All your love and energy and sanity and devotion and chutzpah.

So until you’re ready to do that, enjoy being young. Have long nights out and long lie-ins. Make stupid mistakes. See as much as the world as you can. The whole baby thing can wait.

The PramshedDiary of An Imperfect Mum3 Little Buttons

20 thoughts on “Do robot babies increase teen pregnancy rates?”

  • wow I’d never thought about this. I never had a robot baby, and as far as I know there is no program in place for this where Aspen will go to high school next year. I always wanted a baby. My garbage patch to me was a real human, I took him everywhere, but he never woke me up at night and I was only 9 years old at the time lol. I had Aspen when I was 27 and so many people commented on how young I was. In my mothers group we had a 19 year old first time mum, a 26 year old and the rest of the first time mums were aged between 32 and 43. This post was really fascinating. Gosh I hope my kids don’t have teen pregnancies, although I think drugs scare me even more. #fortheloveofBLOG

  • This post definitely intrigued me! I’ve heard of these robot babies but never had one. Interesting that the teens given the baby were twice as likely to end up becoming teen parents. That definitely needs looking into-unless they tended to give them to people they thought were at risk of becoming teen parents anyway? I second waiting until you’re ready to give everything you have to a little person. I waited until 34 and I was more than ready (in fact, “desperate” was probably the word). #fortheloveofBLOG

  • I don’t think the fake baby does anything to discourage teen pregnancy, I graduated with multiple parents and pregnant girls. One of them even said she thought parenting would be hard until we had the fake baby class and she breezed through with an A. Good job schools, you made her decide to get pregnant! What irony. #EatSleepBlogRT

  • Totally and utterly agree with this post – go do everything you need to do before having a baby. I need my girls to read this post for sure! I had Georgia at 25 and even now the seems too young when I think that’s only a few years away for my daughter now. Interesting read though and interesting how the stats increased for those teens – I too am surprised that they did – but hey what a shock for them with a real baby and no key! #DreamTeam

  • I don’t really think a slightly terrifying robot baby makes much difference either way. As you say, it’s absolutely nowhere near the same thing, if a teen really wanted a baby I’d imagine this would make no difference. Most teen pregnancies are unplanned though, so spending that time teaching them about contraception might do it! #familyfun

  • Awesome post! I find the whole concept of robot babies bizarre. Like you, I knew on instinct I didn’t want a child. I was also 32 when I became a mum and it was a huge shock. But perhaps it is down to attention…. Hmmm…. #FamilyFun

  • No robot babies here! Every time I was this thought think of Robert, damn my nickname for him!! We didn’t do the whole baby look after At our school something at the time I know I wanted to try but honestly it was the best thing waiting till I was older to find out how tough parenting is! Thanks for linking up to #familyfun

  • So very true best advice I could give to any teen. We didn’t have the baby thing at our school and I didn’t want t either. Ha oh so maternal. Being a parent is hard and all consuming in every which way possible. I am eternally grateful I was fortunate enough to cram in a lot of travel, irresponsibility, nights out, whole days in bed, independence and goodness knows what else before life life changing parenthood took over and I would always pass this on as ‘advice’ to anyone who asked…or didn’t… thanks for sharing at #familyfun xx

  • I think I saw this study mentioned on the news, must admit I’ve never really understood the purpose of the Robot baby! I think it’s much more important to focus on teaching teens how to have safe sex, and to not make it taboo. Kids shouldn’t have kids. Thank you for an interesting read! #familyfun

  • WHen I was in school, all kids, boys and girls, had to bring in an egg – not hard boiled. Just raw. We had to name it and keep it from being scrambled for one week. We were not allowed to leave it alone, and an obvious splat on the floor was an ‘egg fail.’ You couldn’t just replace the egg with another egg, there was an egg honor system of sorts. I made it, and still did not have my firts until my 40’s. So bravo egg teacher, or infertility, or waiting for the right relationship to bring us our beautiful littles. What an interesting study. Tahnsk for sharing this! #EatSleepBlogRT xoxo

  • I can’t believe how real these simulators are these days – but like you say nothing truly prepares you for what these babies are really like, when you have them 24/7! Great post, and an eye opener for 17 years #eatsleepblogrt

  • Fascinating post and what a good experience. Who’d have thought it? I found myself nodding where you wrote that it might give them the impression that looking after the dolls is easy. If they were the sort of teenage girls who were looking for the security and love of a baby, that surely would tip the balance.

    As you say nothing can prepare you for the utter exhaustion, because along with the doll you don’t get your hormones mashed up or your partner being annoying.
    The makers should let them smell like real babies. That would do it.
    Jo #eatsleepblogRT

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