As teen pregnancies halve in a decade – are teens choosing social media over sex?

Teenage pregnancy rates in Middlesbrough have halved in a decade – but the town still has one of the highest in the country.

Figures show there has been a 56% drop in teenage pregnancies between 2004 and 2015.

But what is to blame for this drastic fall?

One theory is that teenagers are spending more time in their bedrooms on social media sites socialising with friends behind a screen.

Data was collected about the number of girls under 18 who fell pregnant in the Middlesbrough area each year since 1998.

From 1998 to 2010, conceptions in Middlesbrough fell from a high of 211 in 1999, to 178.

In the next five years there were even steeper falls in the number of teenage pregnancies to just 84 in 2015, a drop of over 47%.

The vast majority of cases are pregnancies involving girls aged 16 and 17, with around 55% resulting in a live birth and the remaining 45% ended through termination or miscarriage.

In 2015 there were 36 live births to young people aged under 18 out of 84 conceptions.

The figures are in line with national data the rate of teenage pregnancy in England and Wales halved in the last 16 years.

It is currently at its lowest level since records began 50 years ago.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show in 2014, 23 young women under the age of 18 out of every 1,000 became pregnant in 2014, compared with 47 out of 1,000 in 1998.

In Middlesbrough, there were 33.7 pregnancies for every 1,000 girls in 2015, compared to 61.2 in every 1,000 in 2005.

This places Middlesbrough within the 10% highest in England and Wales.

The hold social media now has over young people could be to blame.

In 2015, Ofcom reported that 16 to 24-year-olds spend more than 27 hours online each week – almost three times the amount it was in 2005.

Middlesbrough Council say the reduction is thanks to a teenage pregnancy networking group that has been working to reduce teenage conception.

The group has improved the quality of relationship and sex education, delivered young person-friendly access to contraception and targeted education and services for those most risk of conception.

Edward Kunonga, Middlesbrough Council’s director of public health and public protection, said: “We welcome the continued reductions in the teenage pregnancy rates and how the rates are reducing faster than national and regional averages.

“This demonstrates the multi-agency working carried out across the borough through schools, voluntary sector, health commissioner’s services, colleges and Middlesbrough Council.

“While the rates have been dropping consistently over the years, we would like to see them reduce even further in order to close the gap between local and national rates.

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Councillor Mike Carr, Middlesbrough Council’s executive member for children’s services, described the drop as “excellent news”.

He said: “Our determination to tackle this issue has been unwavering, and the multi-agency response to it has delivered significant and life-changing results.”

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