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Is Social Media Causing a Drop in Teen Pregnancy Rates?

According to one professor, the rise of social media means teens are less likely to go outside—the outside world of course being where most of the sperm is.

Photo via Flickr user Geishabot

Teen pregnancy rates in England and Wales have almost halved since 2007, which is sad for your mom—your mom loves to gossip about all the girls you went to school with who have since fallen pregnant, doesn't she, your mom, over a cup of tea, your mom, hissing almost with the deliciousness of the gossip. "Lisa—you know Lisa," your mom is saying, "the almost-pretty girl in the year below you. Well—" and she pauses, your mom, she pauses to really breathe in the moment, "—well, she's pregnant, and Jan [Jan is Lisa's mother, you know this] doesn't think she's going to get her GED." Your mom loves this. She lives for this news. She has no joy for the baby about to be born. But while sad for your mom, the drop in teen pregnancy is generally being seen as "a good thing." So that's good.


The Office for National Statistics released figures Thursday showing that teen (i.e. 18 and under) pregnancy rates in England and Wales in 2014 were down 6.8 percent from the year before, and they are now at their lowest since 1969. There were approximately 23 conceptions for every 1,000 15- to 17-year-old in 2014, compared to the previous high, in 1971, of 55. It means the target set by the then-Labour government in 1998 to halve teen pregnancy rates by 2010 has now finally been met.

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Other fun top line notes: The number of conceptions to women under 16 was 4,160 in 2014, down 10 percent from the previous year. The overall conception rate in England and Wales was down by 0.2 percent, and the rate of pregnancy among older women (classed as over 25, terrifyingly) rose, which leans toward a trend of older motherhood. I mean, based on the statistics, there is a window of about a month and a half where you aren't classed as a teen mother or an old mother, so you best crank a baby out then. But yeah, on the whole, conception rates are seen to be in good shape. The abortion rate among unmarried women was down a touch from 31.2 percent to 31 percent, and among married women, it was up 7.8 percent.

But why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? But why? Why?

Well, experts reckon the teen pregnancy fall is down to a couple of things: sustained sex education policies, access to condoms and assorted other contraception, and, err, "social media being a thing." Let's start with the condom and sex ed thing, something that could well be at risk following recent budget cuts. "It is vital to keep a focus on teenage pregnancy to sustain the progress made and narrow inequalities," government strategy advisor and University of Bedfordshire lecturer Alison Hadley told the BBC. "Universal, high quality sex and relationships education, well-publicized, easy-to-use contraceptive and sexual health services, a youth-friendly workforce, and good support for young parents all need to be in place so successive generations of young people have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make choices."


But your boy Professor David Paton has taken a look at the fact that teen pregnancies have dropped 45 percent since 2007 and the advent of social media, and he has gripped a dog-eared copy of Freakonomics to his chest and told the Telegraph that teens—these vile, awful teens, with their texting and their Snapchat and their YikYak and their Instagramming of food—that teens might be so preoccupied with social media that they forget to go out and illicitly and unsafely bone, thus the teen pregnancy rate eases as the number of no filter selfies increases.

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"It does potentially fit in terms of timing," he said. "People [appear to be] spending time at home—rather than sitting at bus stops with a bottle of vodka they are doing it remotely with their friends." Paton also argued access to contraception alone couldn't explain the fall due to major budgeting cuts in that area, but major improvements in schools in London around the same time could go some way to explaining the reduced teen pregnancy rate in that area. On the whole, "Nobody really knows why we've got this sudden change around about 2007 to 2008."

Just looking at what else happened in 2007 could explain the drop. "The new Ford Mondeo went on sale in Britain with a range of saloons, hatchbacks, and estates," it says here. Is that information helping anyone? Does it make you want to fuck or not fuck? Let's see what else. "The Concert for Diana was held in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales"; "Sir Menzies Campbell resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats"; "Pop four piece Scooch controversially won the right to represent the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest in Helsinki, Finland." Some mysteries we will never be solved. Some mysteries only the universe will truly know.

Follow Joel Golby on Twitter.