back to article Robot babies fail in role as teenage sex deterrents

Robot babies have been found to be an ineffective educational tool for those hoping to prevent teenaged pregnancies. “Infant simulators”, to give the robo-babies their proper name, are anatomically correct dolls that require burping, feeding, rocking to sleep and produce Code Brown and Code Yellow alerts in their pants. The …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Useless for the intended purpose

    One week of standard "feeding regimen sleep deprivation" will provide significantly better results.

    1. Frank Rysanek

      Re: Useless for the intended purpose

      Thanks for that comment :-)

      (joke alert) I would add a simulation of accute otitis media, when the baby starts weeping and yelling for no apparent reason, and possibly the playback of a recording of myringotomy/paracenthesis being performed to a live kid (along with an explanation that episodes of otitis media are often repetitive throughout the years of childhood). And yes I know that this therapy is far from commonplace in the developed world. A popular mothering discipline is "what the hell, what is it this time" - why does the baby yell and refuses food. There can be several other causes beyond those mentioned above, only a few of them are accompanied by a fever or some other outside hint. I.e. a proper simulation should include the "panic-level yelling for no apparent reason for at least an hour", combined with a deliberately impossible task to measure the baby's temperature...

      How do you simulate a week of "coughing all night", coupled to the always present possibility of receding into a serious bronchitis or pneumonia, which would require a stay in the hospital. Heh I wouldn't dare to suggest a simulated lactational psychosis. And that's for an infant/toddler/child that's still pretty much normal and healthy, and knowing that with our modern-day medical care the risk of actual death is near zero (until the relieved pressure on natural selection has the inevitable consequences on our average health, a couple dozen generations down the road).

      There are babies who start refusing breastfeeding after a few days or weeks, in spite of the mother being desperate to breastfeed, for the sake of responsibility and proper natural nourishment. That combined with lactational psychosis... "splendid". Difficult to properly simulate in a doll play.

      The choice of code brown / code yellow / burp / fart is a piece of cake to master. Could be pretty entertaining to a girl, actually. Possibly attractive to a girl in her late teenage = with the right natural hormonal setup to think about motherhood. Reality is much more difficult than playing with dolls. In reality you have the accute knowledge that "this is for real", you feel alone in it, you feel responsibility, whipped up by some hormonal developments in the fresh mother... The reality is much more of a shock compared to playing with dolls who you know are just dolls.

      Also, depending on your family background, as a young parent you may have a problem to feed your family - how do you simulate that? What if the teenager whom you're trying to "educate" is used to that sort of environment?

      Then again... do we want to scare our adolescent population with the actual brutality of life? Some are scared enough without our deliberate effort, others would just shrug it off anyway, the way they always do. Responsibility is down to individual personality traits... For some, even the actual reality shocker of having their own baby is not shocking enough to prevent them from smoking and drinking during pregnancy or breastfeeding...

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Useless for the intended purpose

      Didnt work with my missus. We ended up with another despite that.

      I think people who imagine they can control the breeding instinct of humans really dont spend enough time with them to realise that if humans had any choice in the matter most of them would not exist.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unrealistic

    I'm sure I could engineer an effective replacement. Mine would projectile excrete foul smelling liquid simul-shit.

    I'd also make it able to climb on the ceiling.

    1. Symon Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Unrealistic

      Like this?

      http://www.popoptiq.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/trainspotting.jpg

      Choose life.

  3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    I bet...

    They didn't have the truly unearthly scream some little'uns can make.

    You know, loud enough to make you're ear drums reverberate (I've been to metal gigs that were quieter than what my youngest can achieve).

  4. Alister Silver badge

    The trouble is, a lot of teen girls (and boys, definitely) don't immediately associate the act of procreation with the end result, so "OMG babies!" is not something that goes through their mind at the time...

    1. Frank Rysanek
      Joke

      Re: association with procreation

      Good point... set my mind racing, the thread of thought being "how to train the two distinct situations in a realistic fashion, properly touchy feely, in close succession, to augment a cognitive association of a causal relationship" :-)

      On a slightly serious note, it would probably be difficult to encourage an authentic emotional experience for the first situation too, even if real live subjects were asked to "simulate" the activity... down to choice of subjects?

      1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

        A better simulation

        For several months before the simu-baby arrived, they should have required the students to work 60+ hours a week on school work to simulate the extra jobs they'd need to cover expenses; randomly require them to somehow get across town to make the appointment with the only OB/GYN with an available time-slot; pump both male and female students with random hormones to cause erratic mood swings and physiological changes; have the father stand-in randomly flip between saying they'll always be there to support the child and disappearing for days on end with no indication that they'll ever come back; have most the community stare at them and judge them at every opportunity and random yell out 'slut', 'whore', and other insults; if in the US, have a group of religious idiots scream at her when just going to evaluate their options to try and make them feel like a murderer (Bonus points if they are going to a clinic that offers free / cheap pre-natal care in addition to abortion services); have simulated job interviews where employees refuse to hire them because the mother may have to take time off to care for their child.

        The worst part about being a young parent is not the child itself, but all the other crap associated with the process. Being required to stay up all night for a week or two because of a loud noise isn't a punishment for a teenager, its how they stay up to study for finals and midterm tests. Being forced to endure terrible smelling liquids; Have you ever been around a teenager? They exude grotesque smells all the time. In many cases, the other teachers and families will give quite a bit of lee-way for students taking care of simulated children rather than the more real-life situation where no one gives them a break and even adds more burden citing "You should have thought about that before having a child"

        I've learned a lot about such situations working as an InfoSec expert for a large network of Women's Health Clinics and listening to the Family Planning Counselors during lunch (Nurses that are trained in Obstetric care and social work)

    2. matchbx
      Facepalm

      I've said for years now....

      Stop telling kids "you might get pregnant"

      Start telling kids "you might have a baby"

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        I've said for years now....

        Stop telling kids "you might get pregnant"

        Start telling kids "you might have a baby"

        Add to the list: and spend the next 18 years of your life taking care of the kid. For boys, just alter 'taking care of' to 'paying for'. or like Amy Wong in Futurama: change your calendar filled with fun things to 'motherhood mode' for the next 18 years.

        then again, the principles of 'Idiocracy' suggest that the 'below 100 IQ' half of society will go on breeding like rabbits, while the 'above 100 IQ' will avoid having children because they're being "responsible".

        1. ma1010 Silver badge
          Gimp

          This has been thought of before

          You might want to check out Cyril Kornbluth's famous story, The Marching Morons. This is exactly the point of the story. It has a pretty scary "solution" to the problem, too.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      'The trouble is, a lot of teen girls (and boys, definitely) don't immediately associate the act of procreation with the end result, so "OMG babies!" is not something that goes through their mind at the time...'

      The thought often seems to arrive the following morning along with the hangover. At that point (caution, my knowledge of this is 30+ years old) the rape complaint gets made. The police surgeon offers a morning-after pill. Job done.

      Yes, eventually you get cynical but it was one of two patterns commonly observed in case work.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Baby dolls not dissuasive enough

    From the results of the study, it seems the participants went "so that's all it is ?" and went off to have a real one twice as often.

    In other words, it was a training simulator that built their confidence that they could deal with it.

    Well done, I guess.

    In other news : teenagers still hormonally attracted to sex despite puritans' best effort.

    1. Tim Jenkins

      Re: Baby dolls not dissuasive enough

      "...In other words, it was a training simulator that built their confidence that they could deal with it...."

      Don't know about the more modern robot ones, but in our school the simulated babies of the time were issued to the, um, 'less able' contingent, presumably because they were judged most likely to procreate before failing their CSEs. I guess it's not entirely unreasonable to suggest that having the simulosprog survive the designated time period (I think they had embedded frangible capsules to indicate if they had been thrown against a wall) might actually have encouraged the recipients to generate a real one...

  6. lee harvey osmond

    Future taxpayers

    God forbid that the nation's young people should do their bit to ensure the nation's future supply of young people, thus reducing our need to import folks from abroad to work and pay taxes here.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Future taxpayers

      From TFA:

      "because young parents often use more government services and miss out on the chance to build skills and careers"

      ie kids who have kids end up using more taxes than they pay.

  7. Justicesays

    millions of years of actual babies havent dissuaded

    women from having more of them.

    This is probably a good thing for those of us here today, and for future generations!

    1. Bucky 2

      Re: millions of years of actual babies havent dissuaded

      That's what they were trying to prove: Sex is fun.

      It's just one of those pieces of science that proves something we've always kind of thought was obvious, but had yet to be tested under laboratory conditions.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: millions of years of actual babies havent dissuaded

      Maybe not totally, but my eldest was hard enough to deal with that there's a 6 year gap between the pair...

  8. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Flawed design

    It should come attached with a direct debit in favour of some obscure charity that will regularly clears out the money from either their or their parents bank account.

    That will work with 100% efficacy...

  9. Efros

    Lowest rates of teen pregnancies

    correlate uncannily with rigourous sex education in schools from an early age, whooda thunk it!

    Anecdotally I see a trend amongst teens, (I'm a teacher so I see a lot of them on a daily basis), whereby if an elder sister has a teen pregnancy then her younger female siblings tend not to. Inverse role model?

    1. Kristian Walsh

      Re: Lowest rates of teen pregnancies

      Rigorous sex-education in schools also correlates with societies that don't see a problem in young teenagers having access to contraception.

      The problem I thought would arise with this "real dolls" programme was unfortunately what happened: as humans, we're good at learning, adapting and coping. Give a fourteen-year-old one of these and she'll be driven demented for the first two weeks, but after that it'll just become routine, another part of the shitness of being a teenager (c'mon, doesn't anyone remember what having to go to school every day was really like?). The fear of having to raise a baby on your own is a big factor in girls not engaging in unprotected sex; this programme only removed that fear.

      If you don't accept that teenagers are having sex, and nothing you'll do will stop that, you can't tackle the problem of early motherhood. I think the money would have been better spent on sex education, supplying teenage girls with condoms, and teaching teenage boys to use them (because it's not like girls get pregnant by magic)

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Lowest rates of teen pregnancies

        I'm not inclined to believe that teenagers are simply undisciplined rodents engaging in irresponsible sexual behavior because they can't help it. Actual PARENTING (including knowing who your kid's friends are, chaperoning dates, and FREQUENTLY reminding them that NO birth control method is 100% effective) and NOT trying to be your kid's "best friend" might actually WORK, ya know?

        It's really about teaching responsibility and self-discipline.

        "helicoptering" won't work, either. If you're like me you've known enough preacher's kids who've gone all "sin is WIN!" once they get to college or go into the military. That 'sheltered life' through teenage years didn't help [probably made things worse]. But of course, neither does NOT educating teens about sex, so there's DEFINITELY an aspect of being open and honest, while simultaneously discouraging irresponsibility, that would be effective.

        If it's done right, you should be able to trust your kid NOT to do "those things" when you're not there to watch out FOR them. They should be able to make responsible informed choices and know it when they're being irresponsible, that it IS irresponsible. That applies to everything, really.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: Lowest rates of teen pregnancies

          FREQUENTLY reminding them that NO birth control method is 100% effective

          You need to get out more:

          Fuck Me In The Ass Cause I Love Jesus

  10. Alfred

    Unintended lessons taught?

    Does giving a child a robo-baby to look after for a week teach them that having a baby is a temporary thing that will only last a week, so it doesn't really matter?

  11. Anonymous IV

    This research study cannot be any good...

    ... because it didn't include the obligatory final sentence:

    More research is needed.

  12. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Was it a randomised trial, or did they just look at existing programmes? It could very well be that girls likely to have early pregnancies were targetted with the synthi-sprog, and girls thought not likely to have early pregnancies weren't. So, of course, those girls likely to have early pregnancies had early pregnancies. It was measuring the correlation between 1+1 and 2.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Was it a randomised trial, or did they just look at existing programmes?

      Dunno. But since it was published by the Lancet, I'd be instantly suspicious of the statistical rigour. Why? Andrew Wakefield, that's f***ing why.

      1. Leporello

        It was RCT

  13. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Here's the Stevie Plan to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancy (and also reduce the demand for abortion), all drains on the State: Honest education about sex (cries and fainting on one side of the House) and access to free or low-cost contraception.

    Because teenagers are genetically wired to want to bonk no matter what their parents say or teach.

    And bonk-minded teens aren't thinking of the consequences when the urge hits hard.

    I offer into evidence ... well, the world. Look around. Also, try and remember your own teen years.

    No high-tech doll is going to be able to combat millennia of evolutionary selection (screaming, fainting, burning of crosses, stern letters to The Mail).

    Adrian Mole said it best in his Secret Diary:"Wracked with sensuality."

    1. P. Lee

      Re: Bah!

      >Because teenagers are genetically wired to want to bonk no matter what their parents say or teach.

      >And bonk-minded teens aren't thinking of the consequences when the urge hits hard.

      >I offer into evidence ... well, the world. Look around. Also, try and remember your own teen years.

      Genetically wired, yes, but that doesn't tell the whole story. All the media is telling them that commitment-free sex is not only possible but desirable. Unlike real-life, media-entertainment thrives on conflict and drama. In real-life, that sort of thing destroys relationships. I've seen the macarena done at toddlers' parties. Look at the moves, hands out in invitation, a hug, pelvic thrusting, move on to the next partner. Listen to its words, "my boyfriend was out of town, so I cheated on him." Does it have an adverse influence on toddlers? No, but it does demonstrate a complete lack of thought on the adults' part with regard to the culture with which they surround their children. Look at the sitcoms - Happy Endings, Friends, Home & Away, whatever, everyone takes turns in sleeping with everyone else. There is the assumption that "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" or "going out" means "having sex" in pretty much any film where the subjects are 17 or older. Dancing has gone from telling a story like swan lake, or the rigid frame synchronisation and grace of the waltz or even the social mixing of a "country dance" to jiggling breasts and pelvis and spreading legs in a rather unsubtle simulation of sex, or at best, a "look at my primary/secondary genitals" display in a high-volume scenario which makes anything but visual communication impossible. And Society as portrayed in the media appears to be ok with this. Classical music is the domain of psychopaths, serial killers and the socially stunted.

      Then we allow children to grow up with passive visual entertainment. For hours on end their prefrontal cortex which activates during critical thought and the exercise of love for another person goes dark and their emotional response centres are lit up, leading to the brain's pruning of unused areas affecting their critical-thinking capacity, while decision-making shifts to their over-developed emotional centres. Are we surprised when they make poor decisions about sex and fail to consider the long-term implications of their behaviour in general?

      Don't have sex because of babies is a stupid KPI - of course it doesn't compute. Hormones and under-developed teenage critical thinking see to that. What is criminal is neglect of the moral principle of human worth. You don't refrain from sex because of babies - that's just a government policy problem - you do so because having sex exposes those involved to deep physical and emotional vulnerability to another person. For oxytocin -laden girls, the bonding is even stronger making the breaking of that bond later all the worse. What does your sex-partner think of you? Are they going to swap you out when their hormone level subsides or if they find you a bit irritating? If they aren't, get them to say so, in public. That's what marriage is. If they don't commit for life, they are holding out an option to ditch you. You deserve better. Don't let people treat you as if you're nothing but mammals. That's generally just short-hand for "I think you're here just to serve my pleasure."

      As for my teenage years, I made it through without having sex. This isn't evidence of superiority, but it is evidence that teenage sex isn't inevitable. You can control it - but it helps if you don't let situations develop which promote sex. I'm not convinced even the Puritan practise of "bundling" is a good idea. You (and by that I mean the children) need to make a decisions about your social life and plan activities and situations. That means you (the parent) have teach children about their worth and where that comes from. Of course, if you think people really are "nothing but mammals" then a coherent and useful idea of human worth is a difficult one to develop and instil in your children.

      1. JLV Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        So, basically abstinence, right?

        That has a long track record in the US. Long, but hardly good, results-wise. Well, if by results you care about teen pregnancies rather than preaching your own beliefs onto others.

        To each his own, but I also hardly see the positive in settling with the first person you bed. Tastes, ambitions, ethics and your own willingness to make a relationship work take a while to settle and your perfect match may not be the first person willing to bonk you. Which kinda presupposes a notion of, horror, potentially exploratory sexual relationships.

        Best done safely, with sufficient sexual education and birth control to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STDs. For the rest I am a damn sight more concerned about real issues like rapes and spousal abuse than about "macarena at toddlers parties".

  14. RealityworksInc

    From Realityworks, Inc.

    The study released yesterday by The Lancet is not a representation of our curriculum and simulator learning modality but the researchers’ “adaptation” and is consequently not reflective of our product nor its efficacy. The RealCare Baby® Program is a combination of curriculum and hands-on aids, and if it is being tested and judged for effectiveness, it should be judged in its entirety.

    The “adaptation” used in the study was developed by Australia’s Swan Hills Division of General Practice, the Coastal and Wheatbelt Public Health Unit and the North Metropolitan Population Health Unit. The class time designated for teaching the adaptation was a mere 2.5 hours.

    The RealCare Program is 14 hours of class time, learning activities and a prolonged take-home simulator experience.

    This study is not measuring Realityworks’ program and infant simulator but – as stated in the study – is investigating the effect of Australia’s Virtual Infant Parenting program.

    1. Diogenes Silver badge

      Re: From Realityworks, Inc.

      I'm not sure if they are referring to same sorts of dolls that we use here, but the teachers have the ability to set "quiet hours", which they do for sanity in the classroom (I currently have 3 girls in 1 class with the baby & not once have they disturbed my lessons by crying), our staff also set a quiet time from @ midnight to @ 4am , so its not a really valid simulation. It has been suggested the girls are given the baby in full "hell child" mode, and they remain at home for the week

  15. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I used to say the first 20 years were the worst. I'm moving that out to 40+ nowadays.

  16. martinusher Silver badge

    You can't fight hormones with logic

    Knowing what I know now (as a parent of adult children) if logic had anything to do with reproduction the human race would have died out many generations ago. Its not logic that drives reproduction, its hormones, and those tend to conspire to convince the vulnerable that even the most unpromising situation will end up just fine.

    There's also another subtext which we don't usually like to speak about. Since we as a society are not predisposed to let children starve we tend to pay parents to look after children when they don't have enough of an income to do it themselves. The same (lack of) reasoning that says that it will be fine also sees this has a handy income -- all one has to do is pop a couple of sprogs and you get somewhere to live and something to live on in perpetuity. We all know that this isn't true; at best the kids get shortchanged, facing an uphill battle from birth to climb out of the social hole they were born into, but once again hormonal optimism overrides cold logic.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: You can't fight hormones with logic

      "all one has to do is pop a couple of sprogs and you get somewhere to live and something to live on in perpetuity."

      ah, yes, the 'meal-ticket mommy'. Sad, but true. It makes people like me wanna get all "hardcore" and deny ALL 'social safety net' programs. And yet, one or two HONEST people may actually be in NEED of such things, so the other 99,999,999 get freebies in order to help the one or two...

  17. Jonathan 27 Bronze badge

    Have they tried just giving out free condoms instead?

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      "Have they tried just giving out free condoms instead?"

      yes, but that obviously doesn't work well enough. A free ASPIRIN [placed between the knees] might, however...

      I think expecting teens to breed like rabbits works like the pygmalian effect: you get what you expect. If instead we treated them like the RESPONSIBLE ADULTS we want them to BECOME, and then ensuring they have COMPLETE AND CORRECT INFORMATION by which to make INFORMED AND RESPONSIBLE CHOICES, chances are they WILL. That as opposed to "here are your free condoms and IUDs and birth control pills and abortion services. Now, screw like bunnies, it's OK!"

      Pygmalian effect indeed.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmalion_effect

    2. Pompous Git Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Have they tried just giving out free condoms instead?

      Compulsory sterilisation seemed to work well pour encourager les autres.

      "It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind."

      Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

  18. GrapeBunch Silver badge

    I am reminded of

    when they studied teenage girls' emotional responses throughout their monthly cycle. Who to use as a control group? Of course, boys of the same ages at the same schools. The result? The boys showed more emotional variation than did the girls. Therefore, I humbly suggest that they try a robot baby experiment on the boys instead. I am soooooo glad that I'm too old to play subject in such an experiment.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: I am reminded of

      "I humbly suggest that they try a robot baby experiment on the boys instead"

      or, more realistically, they PAY FOR the robot babies in monthly installments... according to how much they earn or how much allowance they get.

      [well, strapping robo-baby to a guy in a front pack that he has to carry everywhere, and find a BABY SITTER FOR when he's engaging in sports or other activities, might help do the trick...]

  19. x 7

    the robots should have been given to the boys not the girls. You need to give the BOYS a reason to wear condoms

  20. Sitch
    FAIL

    They are missing a key ingredient.

    Giving out this simulator isn't going to (and didn't) do a thing.

    These kids are missing critical thinking skills, they weren't raised with them and the teachers/administrators either do not realize this or are missing these skills themselves.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A more effective deterrent

    Make all teenage girls watch several unedited childbirth videos. "If you get pregnant, the woman on screen will be you." That type of "horror" is likely to stick in their minds.

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: A more effective deterrent

      Because "this could be you" lecturing has worked so well in the past.

      And the people here are supposed to be smart.

      Azathoth on a bike.

    2. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: A more effective deterrent

      Make all teenage girls watch several unedited childbirth videos. "If you get pregnant, the woman on screen will be you." That type of "horror" is likely to stick in their minds.

      But it's extremely doubtful that it will have the effect you imagine. For many hundreds of thousands of years, teenage girls got to see the real thing and ever so many mothers dying in childbirth. It would seem that's insufficient since manifestly you and I are here. We are the product of our genes and the hormones they manufacture.

  22. strangerRick

    We had those things at my school. It took about an hour online to hack the computer inside them... (They had a "tamper-proof" hex screw door blocking access... Of course I had a set that I bought from a Hong Kong supplier. Fed a downloaded set of bogus readings into the memory card. turned the damn thing off and forgot about it. All week long my girlfriend and I had relaxed sex, then plugged the drive back in and brought the little bastard back to school. We got an "A." Technology is a wonderful thing, when you understand it. So is a Depo shot.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We had those things at my school. It took about an hour online to hack the computer inside them... (They had a "tamper-proof" hex screw door blocking access... Of course I had a set that I bought from a Hong Kong supplier. Fed a downloaded set of bogus readings into the memory card. turned the damn thing off and forgot about it. All week long my girlfriend and I had relaxed sex, then plugged the drive back in and brought the little bastard back to school. We got an "A." Technology is a wonderful thing, when you understand it. So is a Depo shot.

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