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Meet Elie, my electronic great, great-nephew . . .

This week I have visitors at the farm. I am the great aunt of Shaina and Keil, two teens who are fun to hang out with, and they help keep me in touch with fresh ideas and thoughts. Their mother is out of town and I eagerly volunteered to have the kids stay here. I am glad I did!

Keil’s high school gives a course in parenting skills. He has been excitedly sharing information about the class. Much of his excitement centers around a special assignment that starts today at 4 PM and runs all weekend.

After school Keil will be bringing home an electronic baby for the weekend and Keil will be the baby’s designated caregiver. Having a baby of your own is a huge responsibility, and a life-changing experience.  I am glad that Keil gets to grasp some of this responsibility as a trial run rather than starting a family for real.

All week Shaina and I have had lots of questions about the class and the baby. Keil has patiently shared what he has learned and teased us about the family resemblance to his robotic newborn. The baby has been named Elie Chase Williams and weighs a little over 7 pounds.

Today I will pick up Keil and his baby side-kick after school. Shaina plans on coming too. I think she secretly likes the thought of her big brother wearing an electronic bracelet and being bonded to the computerized baby for 24/7. She definitely likes knowing she gets the car’s front seat for the next few days as Keil will be in the back next to the baby.

Keil has to respond and care for the dolls needs before it will stop crying. Just like a real child, the doll will also wake up the household several times during the night. A computer chip inside the doll monitors all actions that are taken. Then a report is given to the teacher on Monday. If the doll is mishandled or neglected, the teacher will know, and it results in a low grade. I asked Keil what his friends (who have already had their baby weekend experience) thought about it. He immediately replied, “They said it was Hell!”  But I get the sense that Keil is looking forward to this.

Me? I just want to be off the freeway and out of Friday rush hour traffic before the baby’s programming awakens at 4 PM. We all are wondering what its first sounds will be – a couple of small test cries, hunger, cooing, or a round of inconsolable crying.  Shaina asked if it sounds real. Elie Chase Williams, on cue, had a crying fit and before caretaker Keil found his diaper bag, Elie gave us a taste of his temper. Hmmm, it will be an interesting weekend!

Like any program designed to lower the incidence of teen pregnancy’s, there are pros and cons. Some of my questions won’t have answers until long after our robotic baby weekend ends:

  • Are these dolls really an effective tool for parenting and sexuality classes for adolescents?
  • Can electronic baby dolls teach/reach teens about the commitment of raising children?
  • Some teens are natural care givers. Could the electronic baby experiment have a different effect on these teens? Might some enjoy the experience so much they begin to wish for a real baby of their own?

If your teen has taken part in this type of eventful weekend, please share your experiences with us.