The Longest Shortest Time

EPISODE #51: Real Teens, Fake Babies

Welcome to the fourth and final episode of our Sex & Parenthood series!
We are proud to conclude the series as a co-production with the wonderful This American Life. Sex & Parenthood has generated some amazingly deep conversations about a topic we rarely talk about in a real way. Check out parts one, two, and three of the series and join the conversations in the comments!

Now, on to our story.
Did your high school health teacher ever try to teach you the risks of sex by making you carry around an egg and pretend it was a baby? These days, the pretending isn’t as much of a stretch. Lots of schools are opting to use robotic babies that cry throughout the day and night just like a real infant.

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We followed two girls at Glen Ridge High School in Glen Ridge, New Jersey through their 48-hour stints with the babies.

Paige was brimming with maternal affection for her fake baby

Paige was brimming with maternal affection for her fake baby

Rachel just thought it would make for a fun story

Rachel just thought it would make for a fun story

Paige (left) identifies as Christian and conservative, and thinks premarital sex is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Rachel (right) identifies as bisexual and liberal, and thinks premarital sex is fine as long as it is consensual.

The babies accompanied the girls through their classes, and they had to stop whatever they were doing to feed, change, burp, and rock the babies each time they cried. (The cries, by the way, are pretty urgent—they are recordings of actual babies crying.)

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But, like with real parenting, there were times when the girls couldn’t attend to their babies. For Rachel, it was when she was donating to the blood drive.

The baby looks peaceful here but it is screaming its little plastic head off

The baby looks peaceful here but it is screaming its little plastic head off

Paige’s most dramatic moment happened, literally, in drama club. I don’t want to give it away. But here are some hints.

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Listen to the story to hear how the girls managed the pressure of being woken up by a screaming robot all night long. And how just two nights with those robots impacted their feelings about sex … and motherhood.

Resources for talking to kids about sex
Check out our posts with great websites and books for talking to your kids about sex (or just pointing your teenager in the right direction).

Did YOU have to carry around an egg in high school?
Was it fun? Disastrous? Did it change your thoughts on sex or parenthood? Tell us EVERYTHING. Down there, in the comments. (We’d also love to hear from kids and parents of kids who have used the fake babies!)

CORRECTION: In the original intro to this story, I said that the electronic babies cost over $1000 each, including their accessories. The correct number is over $600.

Thanks to BWN, Podington Bear, Anthony Barilla & Merel van Dijk for music in this episode.