Express & Star comment: The answer to avoiding pregnancy?
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 latest figures show that teenage pregnancy rates across England and Wales have fallen significantly.
Wolverhampton has seen a fairly dramatic fall since 2011. Yet, set against that long-term trend, there has been a blip.
In 2017, 28 in every 1,000 girls and young women aged between 15 and 17 became pregnant in Wolverhampton, compared with 26 the previous year. Wolverhampton is the only place in the region to have seen a rise.
If we seize on the positive of the overall downward trend, 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.
It also 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.
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 as they inhabit a virtual world, or a world of text, email, and “social” media in which a true social element is lacking.
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.
We don’t take away anything from the hard work of the professionals in their successful efforts to bring down teenage pregnancy rates, and time will tell whether this Wolverhampton rise is an anomaly, or a real reversal.
But looking at the overall picture of a fall in teenage pregnancy rates, could it be that one factor is that social media is proving to be the ultimate contraceptive?