Apple raises ruckus with baby-shaking app

April 23, 2009

It used to be that Apple could do little wrong, if the unrelenting mania among the masses for the iPod and iPhone is any indication. Now, the company may have made an unusual and embarassing mis-step in selling a 99-cent “Baby Shaker” application for the iPhone.

Designed by Sikalosoft, the program encourages users to silence an incessantly crying baby by shaking their iPhone until the infant desists, and two red crosses replace the baby’s eyes.

On Wednesday, the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, whose mission is to spread awareness of infant brain injury incurred through abuse or disease, condemned Apple for hosting the application.

“As the father of a 3-year-old who was shaken by her baby nurse when she was only 5 days old, breaking 3 ribs, both collarbones and causing a severe brain injury, words cannot describe my reaction,” Patrick Donohue, Founder of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, stated in an open e-mail to Apple CEO Steve Jobs and several of his executives, demanding a personal apology.

“You have no idea the number of children your actions have put at risk by your careless, thoughtless and reckless behavior! We will do everything we can to expose your reckless actions and reverse the horrific impact it will have on the innocent children throughout the United States.”

Apple, which expects to sell its one-billionth app download this week, says it vets every program for sale on iTunes. The app was pulled as of Wednesday afternoon, a spokeswoman said without elaborating.

According to the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation’s communications director, Jennipher Dickens, whose 2-year-old son has irreversible brain damage as a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome, the app is most likely to be downloaded by the very same young male demographic statistically most likely to shake infants.

Perhaps most controversial was the sales pitch for the app: “See how long you can endure his or her adorable cries before you just have to find a way to quiet the baby down!”

Krapps, a website that writes about apps for iPhone, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, first shed light on the Baby Shaker controversy.

49 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

That is weird. Somebody who works all day pushing the Vet button at Apple is in deep fertilizer, I think. My contact with babies was mismanaged when I was a child, and I rather dislike them. That being the case, I understand things like dead baby jokes, but speaking as one of the bad guys, I agree; this app is a mistake.

Posted by Vigo | Report as abusive

While the app is in bad taste I think saying it puts children at risk is a bit of an over-reaction. No one is going to buy this app then go shake a real child because of it.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

It just goes to show how all these big company execs are spoiled little BRATS who think the world owes them a living. I will not buy their products thank ya much! This company is just as disrespectful to the American people as those stupid greedy AIG Execs and workers are!!!!!! HOW dare they be so irresposible!! GOD will repay them ALL!! HE is THE ULTIMATE JUDGE!!

Posted by sarah | Report as abusive

With due respect to the well-intentioned activist groups, acts like these are not an epedimic brought on by overexposure to ill-concieved multimedia applications, the are simply the acts of evil or mentally unstable people. There is absolutely no end to the amount of tasteless entertainment available to the willing consumer nowadays, but the vast (and I mean overwhelmingly vast) majority of people simply get the joke and move on with there decent lives. Can we stop turning every politically incorrect entity into “disasters of biblical proportions”? Oh yeah, stupid idea Apple.

Posted by Chip | Report as abusive

I think everyone has gotten just a tad bit crazy with what’s appropriate and what’s not. IMHO, I feel that I would much rather have someone get their frustration out on a an iPhone than do so with a real child…
Perhaps this app could deter the kind of people who would actually shake a baby!
Of course, my opinion comes from not liking spoiled, crying babies… Maybe if parents were PARENTS, children wouldn’t be crying non-stop and people wouldn’t shake them at all!!
We live in a country that thinks punishing children is making them stand in a corner! No wonder they’re all so spoiled and arrogant. I know this doesn’t relate to a baby, per se, but unless it’s a newborn infant, a parent can impart a bit of discipline to them…instead of coddling them and allowing them to be a nuisance to the rest of us..
LOL….I sound like I have a few issues, yes?? heh heh..

Posted by Couch | Report as abusive

I think when this app was made it wasn’t made as an intention to be “mean” to babies.
Then again they could have been a bit more savy. What they should have done was turn this app into a “Learning” app, as in when you shake the “baby app” for 10, 20, 30 sec. it can show you the sever damage that shaking can bring to a baby.

Posted by Shirley | Report as abusive

Hoping your stocks drop dramatically. Pretty low way to make money. I will never forgive APPLE PEOPLE. Down Down Down you Go $$$.

Posted by ron | Report as abusive

A Game???????!!!!!!!!! What an evil message. Babies and Children really get hurt.

Posted by Debbie | Report as abusive

Apple should donate the profit from the app to the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation times 2.

Posted by toni | Report as abusive

I think this is insane. The the app sounds tasteless, but people get a grip. It is not a childrearing app that tells them to beat their kids or shake their babies!

Its a stupid joke app and _it even shows the consequences_ (ie: a dead baby). Public service announces are not the way to tell people everything. Society teaches poeple though exposure and talking not censorship.

Censoring creates taboos. A cultural dialog is important to make sure people talk about things. Don’t shut the dialog down with censorship. That is crazy.

Posted by Garick | Report as abusive

If you want to know how to really quiet a baby, think about the environment they were in before they were born and try to simulate it. Before born they were well supported, rocking (sloshing) back and forth with any movement and constantly feeling their mother’s heartbeat. So to quiet a baby, cradle them fully supported in your arms, with one hand under their back gently patting them (to simulate a heartbeat) and gently rock them with a sloshing kind of motion. Unless something else is wrong (hunger, gas, stuck with a safety pin, etc.), the baby will quiet almost immediately and most likely be asleep soon after that.

Posted by How to quiet a baby | Report as abusive

So, Apple thought shaking a baby till it stops crying is a JOKE! Well they are the only ones.
No joke Apple, there is a way smarter phone coming that will make YOU cry like a baby. Watch your STOCKS drop now. Down Down Down they go………

Posted by ron | Report as abusive

Dear Activist- Congrats for using this to get 15 seconds of media time. Now get over yourself.
And BTW, this is not Apple’s application. It’s just something the iphone can play, and there are thousands of these that are made by independent developers. Is Apple also expected to monitor music or movies that can be played over an iphone and remove anything politically/socailly incorrect?

Posted by JTL | Report as abusive

I guess that since I get to shoot people in other video games, I’m really going to go out and do it now, right? NOT. Still, I think the baby shaking game is in bad taste if for nothing more than the fact that I shoot BAD GUYS in video games, not children.

Posted by JetJagger | Report as abusive

“For crying out loud,” this gaff should have been caught by the lowest level of common sense filters. As for the app designers,’what were you thinking?”

Posted by Robert E. Conner | Report as abusive

While we’re at it, I would like to protest the abundance of video-games on the App Store depicting violent acts such as the killing of people with guns. Shame on you, Mr. Jobs! Do you realize how many innocent people you have put at risk of a violent death from gunshots? Also, I simply DO NOT understand how apps that produce sounds imitating the human act of flatulence have been admitted into your venerable store. In protest against this unseemly and inappropriate policy, I have turned my iPhone’s volume setting to mute and will leave it in this state until all flatulence apps and violent-death apps are removed from your store.

Respectfully,
A Lame But Eloquent User

Posted by someone | Report as abusive

@Chip

I disagree with you somewhat regarding “evil or mentally unstable people.” I think for the most part events occur when a stressed out parent or care provider gets terrible frustrated. I think it is likely that 90% or more of these people would NEVER shake their baby if they understood the dangers. Therefore the problem is one of education.

So, in a sense, this is actually a good thing. The App raised the issue, Apple responsibly removed it, and these groups got an opportunity to publicize the issue.

Now in their turn, they should recognize that Apple did NOT write the
offending App itself, and then give Apple credit for acting responsibly and removing it.

Posted by jmmx | Report as abusive

Who has time for all these wasteful phone games? To even call them “apps” gives the impression of some useful function, which this and countless others like it obviously posess none of. While I’m at it, what’s with these “second life” games? I just can’t believe the sheer number of adults who take this stuff seriously! “News” about the developement and success of this stuff is even allowed to make the headlines on my Google desktop as if it really matters, only lending more credibility to this garbage and further nurturing future generations of brain-dead jellyheads. Put down the stupid video game, shut off the boob tube, and get out in the sunshine with your kids. Just don’t shake the baby!

Posted by ken | Report as abusive

Is this app tasteless? Absolutely.

Will it motivate real people to shake real babies? Absolutely not.

While I agree that this was a bad PR move on Apple’s part, that’s ALL it was. No one is endorsing baby shaking. I for one hope that Apple’s executives ignore this “demand” for a personal apology.

People have every right to be offended. But guess what? The first amendment guarantees me the right to go on offending them anyway.

I will accept no curbs on my or anyone else’s right to freedom of expression in the interest of “political correctness,” no matter how tasteless that expression may be.

Posted by Wil | Report as abusive

Hm. I’m guess Couch doesn’t have children. Yes, this app was in very bad taste but the public’s reaction is a bit much isn’t it? If it is mostly being downloaded by young men, these are probably the same men playing video games where you blow people up or beat up prostitutes. My husband plays Grand Theft Auto but as far as I know, he hasn’t shot anyone in the face as a result.
Perhaps this group is simply using this as an opportunity to draw attention to their cause, which I suppose isn’t so terrible. It is after all, a good cause.

Posted by seeyalater | Report as abusive

whats the big deal, even if someone made such an app does not mean that those parents/morons have to download it. Apple is not selling it as default application. The parent who were responsible to bring a child to the world should know whether to buy or not

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive

[...] seems there is a demographic and Reuters wrote about in a blog on the same subject, read more here. According to the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation’s communications director, Jennipher Dickens, whose [...]

I doubt anyone will get the idea that shaking a child until brain-damaged or dead is fun from this app. Anyone who claims spoiled children get shaken is highly unknowledgable since the majority of shaken babies are under the age of 1…and unable to be “spoiled” at that point. Colic or just constant crying makes a child flip that switch in caregivers. I’ve had a child that seemed to cry for the first 4 months of life. Did I shake him? No, but I did finally understand why other people had done it. Not evil, sadistic, or unloving people but emotionally frazzled people with sleep deprivation. Ok, evil, sadistic people do it too but they’d do it if the baby wasn’t crying!
This app isn’t PC or for that matter, interesting. Anyone who thinks shaking their I-phone is fun is not looking for high level entertainment and certainly any advice you give them isn’t going to be well absorbed.

Posted by erica | Report as abusive

Anything that promotes shaking babies to quiet them is irresponsible and needed to be removed from the market; the action taken to persuade Apple to do so is appropriate.
However, for Ms. Jennipher Dickens, communications director of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation insults MALES “as the the very same young male demographic statistically most likely to shake infants” is insulting and irresponsible male bashing. Both genders are to blame for shaking babies, with immaturity and inexperience in raising children properly being the biggest problem facing our society, not one gender or the other. Just because the most horrific cases I’ve seen in recent years involve women abusing infants does not make females more culpable than males. It is a non-gender specific issue. Ms. Dickens owes the male population an apology.

Posted by MacRand | Report as abusive

“Put down the stupid video game, shut off the boob tube, and get out in the sunshine with your kids” …says the guy wasting his time responding to fluff news articles on the web!

Posted by f.p. | Report as abusive

Desensitizing people is all that this kind of program is meant to do. Like any game on the market that promotes violence like the way cartoon & TV do. It will lead younger generations to think that this kind of behavior is acceptable since they made a game of it. Think about it, over the last 20 years you’ve seen game style killings and less empathy. When was the last time you looked around to see if that car alarm was actually a car being broken into. You hear the noise and just keep walking.

Posted by MacGuy | Report as abusive

Exceptionally bad taste? Surely. Harmful to infants? No, unless you’re playing with the ap and shake your iphone so hard that it slips your grip and bonks baby on the noggin. Shaken infant syndrome is a truly sad and terrible thing and should not be made light of, I agree, but as callous as this ap may be it’s not resulting in any actual physical damage to infants. If you’re aghast by the physical abuse of children then advocate responsible parenting, better decision making and personal accountability. This seems like the positive approach to addressing the issue, as opposed to voicing outrage over a tastless (yet harmless) game, which if ignored would probably die a timely death anyhow.

Posted by katgurl_13 | Report as abusive

This has nothing to do with babies, it’s all about the money. Bad press is good press. This is al about the marketing.

Posted by Cora | Report as abusive

I feel like this app would help the movement to raise awareness that shaking babies is NOT ok. I showed a couple people this article, and their response was ‘that’s terrible’, which I would think would be the response of most people about shaking babies. This app could spread a huge message that shaking babies is wrong, as, according to the sexist Dickens, the male demographic that would shake babies would download this…and then be told a bunch of times that shaking babies is terrible as ‘he’ shakes his iphone, and wouldnt have to wait till ‘he’ is shaking his baby when noone is around to tell him that it’s terrible.

Posted by Brian | Report as abusive

BUAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!! Ok, this Sarah Jane Brain Foundation borders on the same line of stupidity of the idea that violent video games induce more violence in the real world.

It simply isn’t true. It just brings to light the kind of disgusting behavior that ALL humans exhibit in some sort magnitude or fashion. It’s ALWAYS been there, before video games and baby-shaking apps.

It’s human nature. We’re predators. We kill, we destroy. Get over it.

If anything, video games have lessened the amount of violent crime. You do the research.

Posted by Timmy | Report as abusive

@MacGuy

“think about it, over the last 20 years you’ve seen game style killings…”

Like what?

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

Ya, because I have been playing Grand Theft Auto for years, and it made me start slap hoes and random people on the street all the time. I have been watching the 3 Stoogies for years, and I always wack people over the head with a hammer…

Get real people, if a video game makes you go out and do the actions, then your an idot no matter what you watch or play..

Posted by Anthony | Report as abusive

Several popular video games, including the award-winning Bioshock, involve killing children. I didn’t see any outcry over Bioshock. Relax, people. It’s a game. It’s just pretend. As a kid, I played Super Mario Brothers all the time, but I didn’t go out and stomp on turtles.

Posted by Dana | Report as abusive

Junk In >>> Junk Out!!! Wise up young people.

Posted by compton | Report as abusive

This is a non-story. I can understand that the father is upset, but his comments are a hysterical over-reaction, and do not merit reporting.

Posted by Oliver Chettle | Report as abusive

Be outraged over every violent video game, or be outraged over none of them. Singling this one out only makes you a hypocrite.

Posted by Rod | Report as abusive

I have to disagree with the over-reaction claims. I think it was an irresponsible choice to release such a product.

Violent games increase aggression and desensitize peoples attitudes towards violence – I don’t need to source this as it’s basic social psychology and there are easily accessible empirical studies which present strong evidence to support this view.

Just check the threads here and the most aggressive responses are by people claiming the violent games are fine, that they cause no harm and that they’re ‘living proof’.

Perhaps ‘proof’ but only for the opposition.

Totally stupid app. Gone now. Forget about it. 1 in a billion, good metrics for Apple.

Posted by Michael Williams | Report as abusive

what kind of person would want to download this app? This is disgusting. Obviously some people are very disturbed. Game or not. What the hell is wrong with this world???

Posted by Disgusted | Report as abusive

[...] New iPhone app allows user to shake a baby until it dies. Awesome. [...]

If anyone sees a prospective mate shaking an iPhone to silence a simulated baby, they should run away.
Very useful app, to reveal a person’s true character in a harmless way. What similar apps can be invented, to uncover sick tendencies?

Posted by Thomas Wamm | Report as abusive

Come on! Use a little judgement here! Shaking a baby is very dangerous. To create an application that mimics this behavior is so disgusting and beyond stupid. Apple should apologize and in doing so, they would bring attention to this horrible condition that ruins children’s lives. This would be a human thing to do. My God, are there no mothers on this application review?

Posted by Stupid and Sick | Report as abusive

Oh please! It’s only a game…there are far more violence games out there…

Posted by Nimy | Report as abusive

Morbid as it may be, the baby in this application only stops screaming when IT’S DEAD. That makes this application seem like more of an educational tool than anything…

With all due respect, it’s probably good that this app is being downloaded by the same “young male demographic” that unknowingly shake babies. At least they will be educated that shaking a baby is wrong.

These people who are sending letters in have personal emotional stakes in their rants, and that’s fine, but keep in mind they are emotion-based rants, not logic based ones.

Posted by Jim Comemundo | Report as abusive

[...] of cultural currency in a short amount of time.  As evidence, look at the controversy over the “Baby Shaker” app, which Apple quickly removed and apologized for on Thursday (the company’s statement said [...]

First of all, all the “evidence” cited in these comments to “prove” that there is no connection between violent video games and actual violent behavior, is entirely anecdotal. Statistically-controlled psychological studies demonstrate that such a connection probably does exist. It’s also common sense–as you simulate a given behavior over and over, it begins to seem acceptable.

Aside from that, this is simply sick. One person even commented that “lots of video games simulate killing of children, and no one complains about them” or words to that effect. Well, I am complaining, and so would almost any normal human being. This is absolutely disgusting, vile and sick. Anyone who excuses behavior like this has no excuse to call themselves a human being. If you are comfortable with this stuff, you are a dog, not a human being.

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive

As someone who deal’s with the public on a daily basis I can tell you that today’s young people have very little respect for any form of life. I have known to many young people who have been killed by other young people with out so much as an oops. People get your nose out of cyber space and read the news or just take a real good look at what is going on in today’s world. Shakeing babies, try my job for a day and then tell me it’s a harmless game.

Posted by Ann | Report as abusive

[...] apps for iPhone, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, first shed light on the Baby Shaker controversy. MediaFile

Give me a break. It was a joke. The PTA just needed something to cry about to get them on the news.

Posted by Will | Report as abusive

The app seems to me as a way to get out anger. Like someone on a punchin bag to get out stress. I would rather someone to shake a phone than to over eat, drink, take drugs because of stress from children. Also us young people do respect our elders, the elders think they deserve more respect or dont respect the young people back. You have to give in order to get in return.

Posted by Ayanna (ATL, Ga) | Report as abusive

I am a social worker in child welfare and am appalled at this application, however, I have to wonder how many people are appalled at the many games that promote drugs, prostitution and murder?? How many of you threaten to sue game developers for creating entertainment that endorses any of these crimes? I have yet to see any game glorifying criminal behavior pulled from the shelves and I have never seen any company apologize for its creation. I don’t think I should hold my breath…

Posted by DazzleU | Report as abusive

As a foster parent of a shaken baby I can not get over the lack of respect and concern people have about this violent crime. The lack of knowledge and empathy is appaling and disgraceful – babies die, are permanently damaged and have lifelong disabilities – because caretakers are unable to exercise control and self restraint.

Posted by Jennifer | Report as abusive

Though the app seems appalling and many think that video games bread violence need to take a look at the real world first. Everyday we are told to be more political correction, which is actually another term for descensitized. Censorship is the US is backwards in my opinion. We censor sex, yet have the highest teen pregnancy rate not including 3rd world countries, and allow excessive violence. Censorship doesnt work because just ignoring a topic or trying to hide it doesn’t make it go away. Take a real long look at the real world and what people do and how they behave then tell me which is more appalling the real world or and app similuating a small portion?

Posted by tony | Report as abusive

[...] right Apple briefly had a baby shaking application. So to achieve some karmic balance we’re linking through to don’t shake .ca to [...]

[...] This is the second complain in a month that Apple received, the previous being an app that requires the user to shake the iPhone to silence a crying baby. [...]