Rachel Sanoff
August 26, 2016 2:55 pm
Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

When you were in high school health class, did your teacher make you carry a robot baby, or “infant simulator,” around for a week?

The robot babies are computerized to behave as real life infants — crying, screaming, needing to be changed, fed, etc., or they “die.” The sex ed exercise intends to teach teenagers the difficulties of parenting — encouraging them to engage in safe sex or abstinence in order to avoid pregnancy.

But an Australian study has made a shocking discovery — the robot babies actually have the opposite effect on teenagers, increasing their pregnancy and abortion rates.

The study, published in Lancet, looked at almost 3,000 teenage girls at 57 schools in Australia. The studied teens’ ages ranged from 13-15 years old. 1,267 teen girls used the robot babies in sex ed, and 1,567 teen girls did not. As explained by The Verge, the study was a “randomized controlled trial,” meaning that it is “far more likely the different results are because of the dolls and not because, for example, girls who were already at high risk for teen pregnancy were more likely to receive the dolls in the first place.”

Researchers found that 8 percent of the students who had used the robot babies gave birth to at least one baby by age 20, compared to 4 percent of students from the other group.

Additionally, 9 percent of students from the robot baby group had gotten abortions, compared to 6 percent of students from the other group.

Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

So why is this happening?

Researchers are speculating that, for some girls, the program is inadvertently teaching them that having a baby is fun and doable. Essentially, they enjoy the robot babies too much. As Janette Collins, a London youth counselor, told The Washington Post: “You’ve accidentally taught [these girls] they can cope.”

We obviously support whatever a woman wants to do with her body, but if a common sex ed program is convincing girls that they are ready for babies when they are really not — especially when it’s a program present in over half of U.S. schools — something has to change.

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