Should young kids have smartphones? These parents in Europe linked arms and said no

A 11-year-old boy plays with his father's phone outside school in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP)
A 11-year-old boy plays with his father's phone outside school in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 23 June 2024
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Should young kids have smartphones? These parents in Europe linked arms and said no

Should young kids have smartphones? These parents in Europe linked arms and said no
  • The most engaged parents are pushing for fellow parents to agree not to get their kids smartphones until they are 16. After organizing online, they facilitate real-world talks among concerned parents to further their crusade

BARCELONA, Spain: Try saying “no” when a child asks for a smartphone. What comes after, parents everywhere can attest, begins with some variation of: “Everyone has one. Why can’t I?”
But what if no preteen in sight has one — and what if having a smartphone was weird? That’s the endgame of an increasing number of parents across Europe who are concerned by evidence that smartphone use among young kids jeopardizes their safety and mental health — and share the conviction that there’s strength in numbers.
From Spain to Britain and Ireland, parents are flooding WhatsApp and Telegram groups with plans not just to keep smartphones out of schools, but to link arms and refuse to buy young kids the devices before — or even into — their teenage years.
After being inspired by a conversation in a Barcelona park with other moms, Elisabet García Permanyer started a chat group last fall to share information on the perils of Internet access for children with families at her kids’ school.
The group, called “Adolescence Free of Mobile Phones,” quickly expanded and now includes over 10,000 members. The most engaged parents are pushing for fellow parents to agree not to get their kids smartphones until they are 16. After organizing online, they facilitate real-world talks among concerned parents to further their crusade.
“When I started this, I just hoped I would find four other families who thought like me, but it took off and kept growing, growing and growing,” García Permanyer says. “My goal was to try to join forces with other parents so we could push back the point when smartphones arrive. I said, ‘I am going to try so that my kids are not the only ones who don’t have one.’“
It isn’t just parents. Police and public health experts were sounding the alarm about a spike of violent and pornographic videos watched by children via handheld devices. Spain’s government took note of the momentum and banned smartphones entirely from elementary schools in January. Now they can only be turned on in high school, which starts at age 12, if a teacher deems it necessary for an educational activity.
The movement in Britain gained steam this year after the mother of 16-year-old Brianna Ghey, who was killed by two teenagers last year, began demanding that kids under 16 be blocked from accessing social media on smartphones.
“It feels like we all know (buying smartphones) is a bad decision for our kids, but that the social norm has not yet caught up,” Daisy Greenwell, a Suffolk, England-area mother of three kids under age 10, posted to her Instagram earlier this year. “What if we could switch the social norm so that in our school, our town, our country, it was an odd choice to make to give your child a smartphone at 11? What if we could hold off until they’re 14, or 16?”
She and a friend, Clare Reynolds, set up a WhatsApp group called Parents United for a Smartphone-Free Childhood, with three people on it. Within four days, 2,000 people had joined the group, requiring Greenwell and Reynolds to split off dozens of groups by locality. Now there’s a chat group for every British county.
Parents rallying to ban smartphones from young children have a long way to go to change what’s considered “normal.” By the time they’re 12, most children have smartphones, statistics from all three countries show. In Spain, a quarter of children have a cellphone by age 10, and almost half by 11. At 12, this share rises to 75 percent. British media regulator Ofcom said 55 percent of kids in the UK owned a smartphone between ages 8 and 11, with the figure rising to 97 percent at age 12.
Parents and schools that have succeeded in flipping the paradigm in their communities told The Associated Press the change became possible the moment they understood that they were not alone.
In Greystones, Ireland, that moment came after all eight primary school principals in town signed and posted a letter last year that discouraged parents from buying their students smartphones. Then the parents themselves voluntarily signed written pledges, promising to refrain from letting their young kids have the devices.
“The discussion went away almost overnight,” says Christina Capatina, 38, a Greystones parent of two preteen daughters who signed the pledge and says there were almost no smartphones in schools this academic year.
Something like a consensus has built for years among institutions, governments, parents and others that smartphone use by children is linked to bullying, suicidal ideation, anxiety and loss of concentration necessary for learning. China moved last year to limit children’s use of smartphones, while France has in place a ban on smartphones in schools for kids aged six to 15.
The push to control smartphones in Spain comes amid a surge in cases of children viewing online pornography, sharing videos of sexual violence, or creating “deep fake” pornographic images of female classmates using generative artificial intelligence tools. Spain’s government says that 25 percent of kids 12 and under and 50 percent of kids 15 and under have been exposed to online pornography.
The dangers have produced school bans on smartphones and online safety laws. But those don’t address what kids do in off hours.
“What I try to emphasize to other principals is the importance of joining up with the school next door to you,” says Rachel Harper, principal of St. Patrick’s National School, one of the eight in Greystones to encourage parents to refrain from smartphones for their kids. “There’s a bit more strength that way, in that all the parents in the area are talking about it.”
The home isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic offered a firsthand glimpse of their kids staring at screens and getting clever about hiding what they were seeing there — and what was finding them.
But if the kids can’t have smartphones, are the parents cutting back their own online time? That’s tough, multiple parents say, because they’re managing families and work online.
Laura Borne, a Greystones mom of kids ages 5 and 6 who have never known smartphones, says she is aware of the need to model online behavior — and that she should probably cut back.
“I’m trying my best,” she says. But just as with the children she parents, the pressures are there. And they’re not going away.
 

 


Paris mayor dips into the Seine River to showcase its improved cleanliness before Olympic events

Paris mayor dips into the Seine River to showcase its improved cleanliness before Olympic events
Updated 17 July 2024
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Paris mayor dips into the Seine River to showcase its improved cleanliness before Olympic events

Paris mayor dips into the Seine River to showcase its improved cleanliness before Olympic events
  • Dip at Seine part of a broader effort to showcase the river’s improved cleanliness ahead of the Summer Games
  • Daily water quality tests in early June indicated unsafe levels of E. coli bacteria, followed by recent improvements

PARIS: After months of anticipation, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo took a dip in the Seine River on Wednesday, fulfilling a promise she made months ago to show the river is clean enough to host open-swimming competitions during the 2024 Olympics — and the opening ceremony on the river nine days away.
Clad in a wetsuit, Hidalgo plunged into the river near the imposing-looking City Hall, her office, and the Notre Dame Cathedral. Paris 2024 chief Tony Estanguet and the top government official for the Paris region, Marc Guillaume, joined her.
“The water is very, very good. A little cool, but not so bad,’’ Hidalgo said upon emerging.
It’s part of a broader effort to showcase the river’s improved cleanliness ahead of the Summer Games which will kick off July 26 with a lavish open-air ceremony that includes an athletes’ parade on boats on the Seine. Daily water quality tests in early June indicated unsafe levels of E. coli bacteria, followed by recent improvements.
Since 2015, organizers have invested heavily — $1.5 billion — to prepare the Seine for the Olympics and to ensure Parisians have a cleaner river in the years after the Games. The plan included constructing a giant underground water storage basin in central Paris, renovating sewer infrastructure, and upgrading wastewater treatment plants.
Despite being a recurring promise among politicians, swimming in the Seine has been banned for over a century. Jacques Chirac, the former French president, made a similar pledge in 1988 when he was Paris mayor, but it was never realized.
Hidalgo will follow in the footsteps of French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castara, who swam in the Seine on Saturday wearing a full-body suit.
Originally planned for June, Hidalgo’s swim was postponed due to snap parliamentary elections in France. On the initial date, the hashtag ”jechiedanslaSeine” (“I’m pooping in the Seine”) trended on social media as some threatened to protest the Olympics by defecating upstream.
Concerns over the Seine’s flow and pollution levels have persisted, prompting daily water quality tests by the monitoring group Eau de Paris. Results in early June indicated unsafe levels of E. coli bacteria, followed by recent improvements.
The Seine will host several open water swimming events during the Games, including marathon swimming at the Olympic Games and the swimming legs of the Olympic and Paralympic triathlons.


Trump website features image of his bloody face to raise funds

Trump website features image of his bloody face to raise funds
Updated 15 July 2024
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Trump website features image of his bloody face to raise funds

Trump website features image of his bloody face to raise funds

WASHINGTON: Former US President Donald Trump’s website featured an image of him with a bloodied face on Monday morning to urge supporters to donate to his campaign and come together in the spirit of unity and peace following this weekend’s shooting.
The website redirected prospective donors to a page on fundraising platform WinRed that shows a black and white image taken by an Associated Press photographer that Trump has described as “iconic.”
It shows the Republican candidate’s face streaked with blood and his fist raised in defiance after a bullet pierced his upper right ear at a rally in Pennsylvania. The image was captioned with the words “FEAR NOT” written in upper case letters.
A message below the image read: “Unity. Peace. Make America Great Again.” The page also carried Trump’s signature and gave visitors to the website options to contribute at different levels.
In an interview published late on Sunday by the New York Post, Trump spoke about the images taken of him immediately after he was shot, including the photo featured on his campaign website.
“A lot of people say it’s the most iconic photo they’ve ever seen,” Trump was quoted as saying in the New York Post. “They’re right and I didn’t die. Usually you have to die to have an iconic picture.”
Trump, who is running against Democratic US President Joe Biden in November’s election, was shot by a 20-year-old man with a semiautomatic rifle on Saturday at the rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, authorities said.
One Trump supporter who attended the rally was killed, two others were wounded and the suspect was shot dead by security agents. The FBI said it was investigating the shooting as an assassination attempt.
Leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties, including Trump and Biden, appealed to the bitterly divided country to unite and maintain calm after the shooting.
A GoFundMe campaign backed by Trump for the victims of the shooting at the former president’s rally had raised over $3.5 million by the end of Sunday.


Wedding party resumes for son of Asia’s richest man

Wedding party resumes for son of Asia’s richest man
Updated 13 July 2024
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Wedding party resumes for son of Asia’s richest man

Wedding party resumes for son of Asia’s richest man
  • It follows a formal ceremony and party the previous evening attended by the likes of socialite Kim Kardashian, Tony Blair and John Cena

MUMBAI: Lavish wedding celebrations for the son of Asia’s richest man resumed Saturday with a star-studded guestlist including Hollywood celebrities, global business leaders and two former British prime ministers.
Billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani’s youngest son Anant and fiancee Radhika Merchant, both 29, are tying the knot over the weekend in the financial capital Mumbai following months of pre-marriage parties that have set a new benchmark in matrimonial extravagance.
Saturday will see a blessing ceremony during which the world’s rich and famous will greet and pay their respects to the couple at the wedding venue, a 16,000-capacity convention center owned by the Ambani family’s conglomerate.
It follows a formal ceremony and party the previous evening attended by the likes of socialite Kim Kardashian, actor John Cena and former British leaders Tony Blair and Boris Johnson.
Kardashian shared videos on Instagram showing the professional influencer and her sister Khloe preparing for Friday night’s festivities adorned in traditional Indian dresses and ornate jewelry.
Footage shared by the hosts showed hundreds of revellers dancing enthusiastically inside the venue wearing traditional Indian dress.
FIFA boss Gianni Infantino, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan and Samsung chairman Jay Y. Lee were among the hundreds of other famous figures from the business, sporting and entertainment worlds to make an appearance.
“Great wedding!” China’s ambassador to India Xu Feihong wrote on social media platform X along with footage of the couple from inside the venue.
“Best wishes to the new couple and double happiness!“
This weekend’s celebrations end Sunday with a reception party and cap months of extravagant pre-wedding parties.
Earlier events this year included a party at the Ambanis’ ancestral home where a purpose-built Hindu temple was unveiled, and private performances by R&B star Rihanna and Canada’s Justin Bieber.
Guests at that gala included Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and former US president Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, along with a who’s who of India’s sporting and entertainment worlds.
In June, the couple embarked on a four-day Mediterranean cruise along with 1,200 guests, with singer Katy Perry performing at a masquerade ball at a French chateau in Cannes.
The Backstreet Boys, US rapper Pitbull and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli also provided entertainment.
Anant’s father Mukesh is chairman of Reliance Industries, a family-founded conglomerate that has grown into India’s biggest company by market cap.
The patriarch is the world’s 11th richest person with a fortune of more than $123 billion, according to Forbes, and is no stranger to making a statement when it comes to family marriages.
He held the most expensive wedding in India to date for his daughter in 2018, which reportedly cost $100 million and saw US singer Beyonce perform.
The family’s lucrative interests include retail partnerships with Armani and other luxury brands, more than 40 percent of India’s mobile phone market and an Indian Premier League cricket team.
His 27-floor family home Antilia is one of Mumbai’s most prominent landmarks, reportedly costing more than $1 billion to build and with a permanent staff of 600 servants.
Merchant is the daughter of well-known pharmaceutical moguls.


Alec Baldwin weeps in court as judge announces involuntary manslaughter case is dismissed midtrial

Alec Baldwin weeps in court as judge announces involuntary manslaughter case is dismissed midtrial
Updated 13 July 2024
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Alec Baldwin weeps in court as judge announces involuntary manslaughter case is dismissed midtrial

Alec Baldwin weeps in court as judge announces involuntary manslaughter case is dismissed midtrial

SANTA FE, N.M.: A New Mexico judge on Friday brought a sudden and stunning end to the involuntary manslaughter case against Alec Baldwin, dismissing it in the middle of the actor’s trial and saying it cannot be filed again.
Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer dismissed the case based on the misconduct of police and prosecutors over the withholding of evidence from the defense in the 2021 shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film “Rust.”
Baldwin cried, hugged his two attorneys, gestured to the front of the court, then turned to hug his crying wife Hilaria, the mother of seven of his eight children, holding the embrace for 12 seconds. He climbed into an SUV outside the Santa Fe courthouse without speaking to the media.
“The late discovery of this evidence during trial has impeded the effective use of evidence in such a way that it has impacted the fundamental fairness of the proceedings,” Marlowe Sommer said. “If this conduct does not rise to the level of bad faith it certainly comes so near to bad faith to show signs of scorching.”
The evidence that sank the case, revealed during the trial’s second day of testimony Thursday, was the existence of ammunition that was brought into the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office in March by a man who said it could be related to Hutchins’ killing. Prosecutors said they deemed the ammo unrelated and unimportant, while Baldwin’s lawyers alleged they “buried” it. The defense filed one of many motions they had made to dismiss the case over evidence issues. All the others were rejected. But this one took.
The judge’s decision ends the criminal culpability of the 66-year-old Baldwin after a nearly three-year saga that began when a revolver he was pointing at Hutchins during a rehearsal went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.
“Our goal from the beginning was to seek justice for Halyna Hutchins, and we fought to get this case tried on its merits,” District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said in a statement. “We are disappointed that the case did not get to the jury.”
The career of the “Hunt for Red October” and “30 Rock” star and frequent “Saturday Night Live” host — who has been a household name for more than three decades — had been put into doubt, and he could have gotten 18 months in prison if convicted.
Baldwin and other producers still face civil lawsuits from Hutchins’ parents and sister.
Prosecutors did get one conviction for Hutchins’ death. Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film’s armorer, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on an involuntary manslaughter conviction, which she is now appealing.
Her attorney Jason Bowles said Friday that he would be filing a motion to dismiss his client’s case as well.
“The judge upheld the integrity of the system in dismissing the case,” he told The Associated Press in an email.
Marlowe Sommer put a pause on the trial earlier Friday and sent the jury home for the weekend so she could spend the day hearing testimony and arguments on the motion to dismiss.
Troy Teske, a retired police officer and a close friend of Gutierrez-Reed’s father Thell Reed who is a gun coach and armorer on movies, was the person who brought the ammunition into the sheriff’s office in March on the same day the guilty verdict in her case was read.
Teske and the ammo he said might be relevant had been known to authorities since a few weeks after the shooting, and special prosecutor Kari Morrissey had met with him last year, but they determined it was not relevant.
The evidence was collected but crucially was not put into the same file as the rest of the “Rust” case, and was not presented to Baldwin’s defense team when they examined the ballistics evidence in April. They defense would argue that they should have had a chance to weigh in on the evidence’s importance, and that the prosecution “buried” it.
The issue came up during the defense questioning Thursday of sheriff’s crime scene technician Marissa Poppell, who acknowledged receiving the ammo, a moment that the judge watched on a police supervisor’s body camera on Friday.
Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey argued that the emergence of the ammunition was part of an attempt by Reed to shift blame away from his daughter.
“This is a wild goose chase that has no evidentiary value whatsoever,” Morrissey told the judge during the hearing. “This is just a man trying to protect his daughter.”
The case’s other special prosecutor, Erlinda Ocampo Johnson, resigned from the case earlier Friday. Baldwin attorney Alex Spiro asked whether she had resigned based on the evidence issues being discussed. Morrissey said she believed it was over the holding of the public hearing itself.
Speaking outside the courthouse doors, Morrissey said she respects the judge’s decision but that there was no reason to believe the undisclosed evidence in question was related to the set of “Rust.”
The trial had barely begun when it was brought to a close. Prosecutors had only started to make their case, and none of the eyewitnesses from the set had testified yet.
Baldwin’s younger brother Stephen Baldwin and older sister Elizabeth Keuchler, both actors themselves, sat behind him in the gallery next to his wife each day of the trial, which was streamed live by AP and Court TV. Reporters from both coasts filled the small courtroom, and had stations outside for arrivals and departures of trial players.
The judge dealt a serious blow to the prosecution’s case when on the eve of the trial on Monday when she ruled that Baldwin’s role as a producer on the film was not relevant and had to be left out.
Still, prosecutors forged ahead, painting Baldwin in their openings as a reckless performer who “played make-believe” while flouting basic gun safety rules.
Baldwin’s attorney Spiro argued that he did only what actors always do on the “Rust” set, and that the necessary safety steps must be taken before a gun reaches a performer’s hand.


Ryanair ‘flight from hell’ makes emergency landing after mid-air mass brawl

Ryanair ‘flight from hell’ makes emergency landing after mid-air mass brawl
Updated 11 July 2024
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Ryanair ‘flight from hell’ makes emergency landing after mid-air mass brawl

Ryanair ‘flight from hell’ makes emergency landing after mid-air mass brawl
  • Fight erupted after one of the passengers refused to swap seats
  • Pilots made emergency landing in Marrakech after situation escalated and one women became ill

LONDON: A Ryanair flight from Agadir to London was forced to make an emergency landing in Marrakech last week after a mass brawl erupted between passengers.

“It was like the flight from hell. And it all escalated from that one passenger wanting to change seats,” an unnamed passenger reportedly told the media.

Witnesses said that the brawl started shortly after takeoff from the Moroccan city when a man in his twenties asked a woman to swap seats so he could sit next to his family.

The woman refused to change seats since she was already sitting with her daughter, prompting the man to begin threatening her.

The altercation led to the intervention of the woman’s husband, who started defending his wife, leading to the brawl. Other family members quickly joined in.

Video footage shared online shows passengers screaming, pushing and throwing punches in the aisle as cabin crew attempted to intervene.

“They were trying to punch each other. One of the families was part of a larger group so other passengers started to join in,” the fellow passage added.

In the middle of the drama, another person onboard the plane fell ill and had to be given oxygen mid-flight.

As the situation escalated, the pilots decided to divert the flight and make an emergency landing in Marrakech, where the police intervened to offload the “disruptive” passengers.

The ill passenger was also treated but was determined to continue her flight. She refused to disembark, requiring authorities to remove her, causing further delays.

By the time the situation was resolved, the cabin crew had reached their permitted flying hours, forcing the flight to be postponed to the following day.

A Ryanair spokesperson confirmed the incident, saying that the flight had to be postponed after a “small group of passengers became disruptive.”

They added that a series of events led to the rescheduling of the flight’s departure and apologized to customers for the diversion.