Electronic babies teach teens the realities of parenting

Filed under: Babies, Your Pregnancy, Day Care & Education

Back in the day, adults thought carrying around a sack of flour would teach a kid what it is like to care for a baby and hopefully dissuade a teenager from becoming pregnant. Of course, a sack of flour doesn't cry, wet or poop. If you put your sack of flour in the garage for the night, it is not going to complain.

These days, technological advances have made it possible to have a simulated baby experience that is a lot closer to the real thing. Realityworks is one of several companies who make an electronic baby that looks and acts like a real infant. Available in five racial groups and six skin colors, these babies are programmed to require care based on data from real parents. They whimper and cry and computer chips keep track of diaper changes and feedings. They must be held properly, burped and rocked and any mistreatment, such as being held upside down or shaken, is monitored.

Studies have shown that the mock-baby experience does make a difference. But the best endorsement of all comes from teens who have experienced it themselves. Seventeen year old Shaylona Wheeler says she encourages her friends to sign up for it . "I recommend it, because kids these days think it's a cute thing to have a child and dress it in nice clothes," she said. "And I say, 'You should do this, because it will probably change your mind."

According to Sarah Paulson, a home economics teacher, the simulated baby experience can also have an unexpected benefit: a greater appreciation by teens for what their parents went through. "It gives them a new outlook on how responsible their parents had to be," Paulson said. "I've had parents call and say thank you. It opens up communication."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.