‘Magic dolls’ aka baby simulator a failed model

‘Magic dolls’ aka baby simulator a failed model

With teenage pregnancy rates increasing day by day, various countries have introduced teenage pregnancy prevention programmes in high schools to educate the children about pregnancy. One such programme employs the use of ‘magic dolls’ or baby simulator. The baby simulator is a lifelike model of a baby, used to teach teenage girls about the needs of a baby in a more real way. The simulator cries when it needs to be fed, burped or changed.

Similar programmes are introduced in schools in 89 countries, including the US. Unfortunately, the Virtual Infant Parenting programme did not work in Western Australia. More than 1,000 teenage girls from more than 50 schools were enrolled in the programme and were taught about sexual health, contraception and the financial costs of having a baby.

They were also shown a video of teenage mothers talking about their experiences. But when the researchers tracked up the progress of girls up to the age of 20, they found that 8% of them had given birth at least once and 9% had an abortion, compared to the girls who did not take part in the programme wherein4% had given birth while 6% of them had an abortion.

Julie Quinlivan, from the Institute for Health Research, University of Notre Dame Australia, evaluated various reasons leading to the failure of the programme as given in the Lancet. Believing that a real simulator cannot be compared to a real baby, she attributed the first reason to the lack of focus on fathers or teenage boys, who have an equal contribution in early pregnancies. She also feels the need to start teaching children about teenage pregnancy prevention at an early age, secondary school age being too late. Lastly, she says that the programme needs to emphasize upon the negatives of teenage pregnancy more.