Kids Having Kids: A Trial Run - Part 1


You may have heard of the popular MTV hits "Sixteen and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom."

The shows expose the hardships of teen pregnancy, and new research indicates that they may actually be partially responsible for the 6% drop in the teen pregnancy rate.

Meanwhile, critics argue that rates had been dropping long before the shows aired, due to birth control, abstinence, and education.

Ever since the '90s there's been a push to get teen pregnancy rates down. But even with these efforts, three out of 10 teens in the U.S. will become a mom before they graduate high school.

In the crowded and chaotic hallway at Berrien Springs High School on a recent spring day, one freshman carried a bookbag and a baby.

"You are not the main priority anymore," freshman Bella Vaz explains. "You have another life you have to watch after."

She has only had her baby for half a day, but she's already in need of a break.

"I figured it wouldn't be this hard, but it's a lot harder than what I expected," she admits.

The baby Bella is carrying isn't her flesh and blood. In fact, it's comprised entirely of plastic and electronics.

"As soon as that clock hit ten o'clock, oh my goodness, it cried five times the first hour," Bella explains.

The babies she and others in her class are working with may be plastic, but don't be fooled. They have computers in them that imitate what a real baby is like, based on a mother's log of her own experiences.

"Some mother somewhere has gone through the trouble of recording every time her baby cries. What time her baby cries. How long did it cry? What did it want?" explains teacher Julie Harner.

In fact, there's a colic baby, a crack baby, and an easy-going baby. They are all programmed by a computer that tracks how each student treats their baby, eventually computing the student's grade.

They don't get babysitters or help; the mom always has to be in the vicinity.

The electronic babies are provided by Lakeland Hospital, but other schools in Michiana can borrow them as needed.

"I think the most important thing is that if you think that it's a good time to have a baby or if you think you're not going to get pregnant, that's another thing coming," says sophomore Sam Krause.

That's a message Harner sends loud and clear.

"It can happen to you, and if you don't want it to happen to you and you like your sleep at night, then you need to make a different choice," the teacher explains.

Statistically, half of teen moms don't graduate from high school and end up earning only about $6,500 per year.

But with more awareness, experts believe pregnant rates will continue to decline.

For example, in 1991 the teen birth rate was 61%. Two decades later, in 2012, it's 29%.

"For me, informing them about sex, going over things, 'This is not a myth. This is a myth.' Giving them all that information only strengthens their ability to make good choices," Harner says.

"Ms. Harner knew what she was talking about when she said abstinence was important," Bella admits.

"I'm definitely going to make the best decisions for me knowing now that, if that happened to me, how it would feel and how stressful it would really be," Sam adds.

Harner is very passionate about the program, and she's the one who started it at Berrien Springs.

But it's not foolproof.

She has had some students in her class go through the computerized baby program and still get pregnant.

On Wednesday night, just before 6:00 p.m., we'll talk to a couple of teenage moms who are taking care of the real thing and working hard to still earn a high school diploma.


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