Caring for lifelike robot babies for a few days is supposed to discourage teen pregnancy, but a new study in The Lancet found that Australian teens were undeterred.
Students who participated in the virtual infant parenting (VIP) program with the computerized “infant simulators” were actually more likely to get pregnant by age 20 than girls in a standard sex-ed program. Pregnancy rates among robo-baby recipients were 17 percent, compared to 11 percent in the lower-tech intervention. The lead author categorized this difference as small but statistically significant.
The researchers aren’t sure what happened here. Per the WSJ:
The researchers, from both the University of Western Australia and the Telethon Kids Institute, said it wasn’t clear why robot infants may encourage higher pregnancy rates, although Ms. Brinkman said anecdotally many of the girls reported that caring for them over a two-day weekend was a positive experience.
While some students frayed at the pressure and consigned their crying robo-babies “to the back of their father’s tool shed” for the weekend, or placed putty over the speaker to dull the noise, most reported enjoying their brief exposure to motherhood.
Unfortunately, you can’t give real babies back after two days.