Could social media be behind the drop in teenage pregnancies?

I remember when the UK had the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe and we were wringing our hands because all attempts to lower it failed.

Now we find the number has halved in the past eight years. Among the under 18s pregnancy has fallen to the lowest level on record. How come?

It seems we’re now living with the most sensible generation of teenagers yet. They don’t smoke. They don’t drink. They don’t do drugs. And they don’t do irresponsible sex.

So what’s behind this drop? Could it be social media?

The decline, charted in figures released recently, also parallels the rise of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which experts say have transformed the behaviour of young people.

Among the factors that could have also contributed to the decline, says the Office for National Statistics, which published the figures, is improved sex education programmes and better access to contraceptives.

Plus a “shift in aspiration of young women towards education” and the stigma attached to teen pregnancy could also have promoted responsible sexual behaviour.

Teen pregnancies in England and Wales for 2015 numbered 20,351 – the lowest since records began in 1969 – down from 22,653 in 2014. It follows guidelines from NICE in 2014 that said schools should provide free morning-after pills to teenage girls, including those under the age of consent, to cut unwanted pregnancies.

In 2001, Tony Blair’s government had made the morning-after-pill available on-demand to anyone over 16.

Professor David Paton, of Nottingham University, said the fall had come despite recent cuts by local authorities to contraception services. ‘The sharp decline… is due in part to the improvements we have seen to schools and which have provided young people with opportunities that give them the incentive to avoid early pregnancy.

“Teen pregnancy rates have also gone down very significantly in most western countries including Ireland, where contraception for underage youngsters is much harder to access than in England.

‘The root cause appears to have been a more general decrease in risk-taking behaviour amongst young people with lower rates of drug taking, smoking and alcohol use.”

He said: ‘There does seem to be something that has caused teenagers to take fewer risks with sex, drugs and alcohol since about 2008.

“Given that social media also increased in importance quickly from about the same time, it is reasonable to suggest the two phenomena may

be connected.”

At last, an upside to social media!