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Opinion

How did Apple let Baby Shaker iPhone application through?

Jennipher Dickens is the communications director for the Sarah Jane Brain Project, which strives to prevent brain injuries in children.

I'm not one who is prone to hysterics. As a mother who has been through every parent's worst nightmare, I've learned to take things in stride. I try to find humor in almost everything. You see, my son was shaken and nearly killed by his biological father, the man I was married to at the time, in 2006. He now has permanent brain damage as a result of that shaking. So very little shocks me in this world anymore. And as a former newspaper reporter, I'm also fully aware that there's a tendency among the general public to try too hard to be politically correct a lot of the time. If a company or even a prominent individual does the tiniest little thing wrong, or says something even remotely off-color, there's a huge public and media outcry. But the Apple iPhone application Baby Shaker I stumbled upon Wednesday morning at the Web site krapps.com has nevertheless shocked and outraged me. The program shows a drawing of a crying baby, and once you shake the phone, the crying stops and Xs appear over the baby's eyes. The application has since been pulled - after public and media outcry - but I'm still left wondering, "What in the world were these people thinking?" It's one thing for some unknown software developer to decide to create something like this. While that's bad enough, the fact that this application was being sold raises the question of how a computer giant like Apple could possibly overlook something so blatantly inappropriate and offensive. Apple Inc. is on the eve of its 1 billionth iPhone application download - an event the company is promoting heavily. The company says it has a tough iPhone application vetting process - specifically to avoid issues like this. It has notoriously screened apps for curse words or nudity. How could an application that simulates killing a crying baby be OK with the company's screeners? Shaken baby syndrome is not something to be made light of. Even with efforts to raise awareness of its dangers, it is distressingly common. There's a case in court on Long Island right now of a Mastic man who admitted to shaking his daughter until her brain bled. This is definitely not something that should ever be portrayed as a form of entertainment. Even more than most forms of violence, shaken baby syndrome is 100 percent preventable. That's why this horrible application flies in the face of the cumulative prevention efforts over the past decade - it teaches people that the way to quiet a crying baby is to shake it. It is scary for me to think of how many 10- and 11-year-olds could have picked up their parents' or older siblings' phones, played his horrible game, and then decided to test out the technique on their baby brother or sister the next time he or she cried. Apple needs to let the public know exactly how this application was vetted and released. And the company should take steps to rectify the damage already caused - and the disrespect that has been shown to all family members of shaken baby syndrome victims and survivors. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and, ironically, this week is specifically Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Week. I can't take the Baby Shaker application in stride. But I can at least hope that the disgust it inspires will serve to raise understanding about the tragedy of shaken baby syndrome.

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