Shropshire Star comment: Pregnancy rates have online link
Something is happening with today's teenagers.
Rates of pregnancy among under-18 girls have in the past been a cause of concern, a vexing problem to be tackled by better education and access to contraception.
But now something quite dramatic is happening in Shropshire. Teenage pregnancy rates have plunged.
In Telford & Wrekin, 20 in every 1,000 girls and young women between 15 and 17 became pregnant in 2017. Six years earlier the figure was 37.
In Shropshire, there were 15 pregnancies among every 1,000 girls and young women in 2017, with the figure from six years before that being 24.
This data represents a seismic shift. And a very interesting point to chew over is this – why is it happening?
The Pregnancy Advisory Service puts part of the reason down to improvements in information provided to young people, with improved access to contraception, and highly effective contraception methods.
But it has to be more than that and, indeed, the service points to wider shifts within society.
It is suggested that teenagers today are focussed on their education, and weigh up the pros and cons of having a child in the current economic environment and, having done so, in a mature and responsible way, come to the conclusion that to do so will interfere with their life goals.
Yet surely Katherine O'Brien of the PAS is on to something when she says: "Far from the stereotype of groups of teenagers binge drinking, young people are consuming alcohol at much lower levels, spending significant amounts of time socialising with friends online rather than face-to-face."
Note that phrase about socialising with friends online, rather than face-to-face.
From a very early age now children are glued to their devices, head down, often oblivious to the world around them as they inhabit a virtual world, or a world of text, email, and "social" media in which a true social element is lacking.
Parents from generations when children went out and met their mates now see their young charges come home from school and disappear into their bedrooms.
Naturally this is a generalisation, but maybe it is not an absurd one, as there does seem to have been a change in what you might term the social centre of gravity.
Youngsters chat, and exchange pictures and messages, but they don't meet.
We don't take away anything from the hard work of the professionals in their successful efforts to bring down teenage pregnancy rates
But could it be that what is really behind it all is that social media is proving to be the ultimate contraceptive?