A bewildering headline out of the Wall Street Journal this morning: “Robot Babies Not Effective Birth Control, Australian Study Finds.” How are they... how are they using the robot babies for birth control?

Turns out the Journal is referring to “Baby Think it Over dolls,” the uncanny robo-infants now commonly assigned to teens as an educational exercise to discourage them from getting pregnant. Guess kids today are too advanced for mere eggs, or bags of flour. (Has anyone tried just telling teens about the hemorrhoids?)


The paper says there’s a new study, just published by Australian researchers in The Lancet, which found that “teenage girls who used the lifelike computerized dolls as part of a pregnancy-prevention program were more likely to become pregnant compared with girls receiving a less high-tech sex education.” Maybe the experience of toting around a plastic doll emitting occasional electronic cries doesn’t properly convey the reality of caring for a squalling angry potato person who depends on you completely for survival and has also just blown out his diaper to the extent he is smeared in his own shit.

At any rate:

“The program was supposed to put students off and then they would take extra steps not to get pregnant,” said study author Sally Brinkman, of the Telethon Kids Institute in Western Australia. “Unfortunately, and surprisingly for us, the intervention we can say definitely didn’t work and it actually seemed to increase the pregnancy rates. It just didn’t really work in putting the students off.”


Specifically: “Those who used the VIP [Virtual Infant Parenting] program had pregnancy rates of 17% by the time they turned 20, compared with 11% among those who didn’t, which Ms. Brinkman said was a small but statistically significant increase.” The company that makes the dolls, Realityworks, didn’t respond to the Wall Street Journal’s request for comment by press time.

You know what definitely helps reduce teen pregnancy? Actual contraception—specifically, the kind that’s free and longterm but reversible.