Saturday, January 31, 2009

8-Year-Old Confession Didn't Hold Up

In a followup of the case involving the eight-year-old Arizona boy charged with the murder of his father and his father's friend, it appears the prosecution has agreed to not use the murder confession he gave at the police station. They cite that he was not accompanied by a parent or a lawyer before he made his confession. It seems despite the fact that Arizona is willing to charge 8 year olds with murder, they're also willing to afford them with the same rights that adult murder suspects get. At least we can breathe a sigh of relief at that.

He is still a main suspect. It'll be up to the criminal justice system to determine if he did it and what his motive would have been. They're investigating the possibility that he was abused. They're also pondering on whether or not he's fit to stand trial, with a psychological evaluation deeming him incapable.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Keep your Eye on

A proposal by the NYRA on to lower the voting age in the United States to 16 has qualified for a second round of voting. When that happens, be sure to cast your vote and join the discussion.

Lower the voting age to 16.

In 2007, Austria became the first of the world's officially categorized "leading democracies" to allow 16-year-olds to vote. Brazil, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man have all lowered their voting ages to 16 as well. If America wants to be the freest nation in the world for the most cxtizens, we need to update suffrage and allow 16-year-olds to choose the president as well.

16-year-olds are old enough to get a job and therefore to have taxable income, but can not vote to prevent their tax money from being used to fight oil wars or fund police departments that practice racial profiling.

When people first tried to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 during the Vietnam War, many objected that 18-year-olds who weren't mature enough to make decisions of whom to vote for would ruin the country. The voting age was lowered to 18 and that didn't happen. And it won't happen this time either!

And after the voting age was lowered, 18-year-olds were suddenly able to sign contracts, marry without their parents' permission and get polled by polling organizations who cared what they thought. If the voting age were lowered to 16, several basic rights would follow for 16-year-olds. They may even be given the right to medical consent by the states, which is a human right, not an "adult right".

The enthusiasm of 16- and 17-year-olds for Barack Obama during the 2008 election season, even while their parents doted over Hillary Clinton, should put to rest once and for all the myth that 16-year-olds will vote like their parents.

16-year-olds are now tried as adults for the crimes they commit, but the right to have a say in what laws they will have to obey has for too long been denied because of lazy, impressionistic and unscientific generalizations about "maturity". Follow the lead of Austria and grant the suffrage that will be seen as progress just as suffrage for African-Americans, Native Americans, women and 18-to-20-year-olds were.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Anti-Teen Buzz, Buzz Off

I realize this has also been presented on The Minor's blog, but these "torture tone" Mosquito applications for the Ipod have caused such an array of international controversy.

By actual teen accounts, they don't actually "torture" or sound all that unbearable, and some adults can hear them as well, but the idea that a product could be sold on the basis that it could be used to "torture" young people is an obvious act of anti-youth discrimination. It is doubtful how profitable these applications would have been anyways, considering Apple's main market is youths.

Kathleen Marshall, Scotland's Children's Commissioner, disagrees. She promised action on the program and said: "The UN committee on the rights of the child has expressed concern about the use of the Mosquito devices on which this product is based. It is shocking that a product can be marketed with the aim of annoying or torturing' teenagers."
Steven Kidd, its development officer, said: "Whilst we're sure many teens consider school to be torture, we doubt that there could be any educational use of the application. We hope that Apple will recognise "Teen Torture" as another cynical attempt to demonise law-abiding young people and move quickly to remove the item from its online store."
The proponents of the unregulated use of these frequencies show us just how ignorant an individual can be. This frequency does nothing to prevent "teen nuisance," and "anti-social behavior." In reality, it is an indiscriminate harm that only spurs on further teen retaliation. Think it's a harmless product? According to the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the use of ultrasonic noise channels is not entirely safe, particularly for children.

"The risk to the target group of teenagers and young adults is relatively low. They can leave the area when they hear the sound. On the other hand small children and infants are especially at risk, due to lengthy exposure to the sound, because the adults themselves do not perceive the noise. Moreover, the ultrasound affects not only hearing. Disruption of the equilibrium senses, as well as other extra-aural effects are well known. With the sound levels that can be reached by the device, the onset of dizziness, headache and impairment is to be expected. This is not the limit of the total risks to safety and health.[10]"

This indiscriminate use targets youths and children regardless of whether they are misbehaving or not, and only serves to further demonize young and turn age groups against each other. In light of this, some teens have been able to go commercial with recordings of these so-called "annoying" frequencies and use them to pass messages on cell phones that adults, such as teachers and parents, will not be able to hear. It's called "Teen Buzz."

A secondary school teacher in Cardiff said: 'All the kids were laughing about something, but I didn't know what. They know phones must be turned off during school. They could all hear somebody's phone ringing but I couldn't hear a thing."
It's obvious that not only does it not "torture teens," but it doesn't provide proper discipline, it can't be used as an educational device, it spurns on youth retaliation, and its indiscriminate use has been found to be harmful. It's just another example of how adults feel they can buy "peace of mind" by being anti-youth and remaining ignorant.

Of course, the makers feel the controversy stirred up by marketing a product that infringes on human rights is the best advertising they don't have to buy, and boast about it on their website! Business will be business, and bigots will be bigots.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dumbing Down with Leapfrog

You've seen Leapfrog books whether on the store shelves or on television, or perhaps you're a parent who has purchased Leapfrog books for your child with the ambition that it'll get your children excited about reading. Work in the modern world doesn't often leave time to sit down with a child and read, so leave it to the engineers to devise a so-called solution. The issue here is that the problem being solved with these books is not a child's lack of interest in reading or a parent's time to sit down with their kids, but rather simply another gadget to give parents peace of mind hawked as an educational tool.

Not that there is anything wrong with Leapfrog in and of itself, but research has shown that fancy devices don't provide any more structure for a child than more traditional objects. For instance, a young child can get just as much stimulation out of kitchen pots as they can from a fancy drum kit. Obviously, learning how to read requires social interaction and material, not just material. You can load your child up with these toys but if one doesn't take the time to instruct a child personally, then the child will fail to grasp the purely socialization process that reading is. We know reading is more complicated than having a book literally spell it out to you.

This commercial seems to showcase everything that is horribly wrong about this product. Whether or not people regard Leapfrog in such a way, the advertisers pitch to the public in this commercial is beyond shameful. They depict children enjoying their "play" with the Leapfrog book, using their little pens to read Dora the Explorer and Spongebob, which there is nothing wrong with, but they compare a child's enthusiasm for Leapfrog to reading actual books, and try to make the claim that children will enjoy playing with their Leapfrog more than they will reading actual books!

Just to drive the message home, in the commercial they have a boy respond why he doesn't like reading actual books and he says, "That book doesn't talk!" Meanwhile there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with the so-called "Journal of Amphibious Species,"--those were some beautiful illustrations of frogs--the type of book that I personally enjoyed pouring over as a child, as I'm sure many other children do. If you're trying to get children to see the importance of reading, why go around dissuading them away from certain reading material? Particularly reading material that can inspire and enlighten kids about nature and the outside world in ways that corny TV-show based books can't.

The answer is obvious. It's because the company isn't concerned with getting kids interested in reading, but rather getting them and their parents interested in their product. In an industry diffused by video-games, movies and television, the idea that books must also be as dumbed down as anything else children interact with seemed like a money-making opportunity. The real solution is simple. Leapfrog is no solution...parents are!

The advice here, get out of the frog suit, sit down with your kids and read a book together. Parenting shouldn't be entrusted to four AA batteries.