Lifelike baby dolls for Teenagers
Lavin, E. (1995, April 6). The crying game: Teenage girls find lifelike dolls bring lifelike responsibilities. Los Angeles Times.
Several schools nationwide have embarked on the Baby Think It Over program, a pregnancy prevention program in which students considered at high risk of becoming pregnant are assigned lifelike baby dolls. The $220 computer-controlled "baby" has a recording of a newborn’s cries that cannot be quieted unless the doll is properly cuddled and "fed, " which entails inserting a key into its monitoring device. Yellow, red, and green alarms light up on the doll’s back if the teen neglects or mishandles it. It usually takes 10 to 30 minutes to calm the babies.
A 17-year-old participant of the program took her baby to church choir practice and it started crying while she was singing. Unable to quiet it, she finally had to leave. ‘That was a doll, ’ she said, ‘Imagine a real baby.’
The 17-year-old is a student at South Gate High School in Los Angeles County. One out of every 10 girls gets pregnant each year at South Gate. Schools are turning to the computerized dolls at a time when teenage pregnancy has become one of the most emotional elements in the national debate over growing federal welfare payments. About 90% of welfare money goes to fatherless families that most often started with unwed teenage mothers.
The San Diego-based company producing the Baby Think It Over dolls offers dolls of different races. The manufacturer also makes a "crack baby, " whose crying is more frequent and accompanied by tremors.
A freshman participant in the program said the exercise was just a practice shot for her plans to have a child. ‘My boyfriend and I are going to have a baby in October, ’ said the 15-year-old, ‘I know it’s going to be hard...but that’s OK. I always wanted to have a baby.’
Mary Jurmain, president of the Baby Think It Over company, says ‘I don’t think the doll is a panacea. It needs to be used with a good program. Kids need to hear about the pros and cons about having babies and need to understand other responsibilities. Baby Think It Over does have its limitations.’
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
- What do you think? Do you see any dangers or disadvantages of this program?
- Should boys be asked to participate as well?
- Adolescent immaturity involves taking risks without thought of consequences and responsibility.
- No one fact, method, or program will change high-risk adolescent behavior.
- Treating sexual activity and pregnancies among unmarried teenagers as a national public health issue is a first step toward a unified way of reducing their frequency.
Sheila Walsh cCYS
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