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.
 

 


NASA telescope spots a super Jupiter that takes more than a century to go around its star

NASA telescope spots a super Jupiter that takes more than a century to go around its star
Updated 25 July 2024
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NASA telescope spots a super Jupiter that takes more than a century to go around its star

NASA telescope spots a super Jupiter that takes more than a century to go around its star
  • The planet is roughly the same diameter as Jupiter, but with six times the mass
  • One big difference: It takes this planet more than a century, possibly as long as 250 years, to go around its star

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A super Jupiter has been spotted around a neighboring star by the Webb Space Telescope — and it has a super orbit.
The planet is roughly the same diameter as Jupiter, but with six times the mass. Its atmosphere is also rich in hydrogen like Jupiter’s.
One big difference: It takes this planet more than a century, possibly as long as 250 years, to go around its star. It’s 15 times the distance from its star than Earth is to the sun.
Scientists had long suspected a big planet circled this star 12 light-years away, but not this massive or far from its star. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles. These new observations show the planet orbits the star Epsilon Indi A, part of a three-star system.
An international team led by Max Planck Institute for Astronomy’s Elisabeth Matthews in Germany collected the images last year and published the findings Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Astronomers directly observed the incredibly old and cold gas giant — a rare and tricky feat — by masking the star through use of a special shading device on Webb. By blocking the starlight, the planet stood out as a pinpoint of infrared light.
The planet and star clock in at 3.5 billion years old, 1 billion years younger than our own solar system, but still considered old and brighter than expected, according to Matthews.
The star is so close and bright to our own solar system that it’s visible with the naked eye in the Southern Hemisphere.
Don’t bet on life, though.
“This is a gas giant with no hard surface or liquid water oceans,” Matthews said in an email.
It’s unlikely this solar system sports more gas giants, she said, but small rocky worlds could be lurking there.
Worlds similar to Jupiter can help scientists understand “how these planets evolve over giga-year timescales,” she said.
The first planets outside our solar system — dubbed exoplanets — were confirmed in the early 1990s. NASA’s tally now stands at 5,690 as of mid-July. The vast majority were detected via the transit method, in which a fleeting dip in starlight, repeated at regular intervals, indicates an orbiting planet.
Telescopes in space and also on the ground are on the hunt for even more, especially planets that might be similar to Earth.
Launched in 2021, NASA and the European Space Agency’s Webb telescope is the biggest and most powerful astronomical observatory ever placed in space.
 


Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years

Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years
Updated 22 July 2024
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Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years

Cyprus displays once-looted antiquities dating back thousands of years
  • The returned artifacts numbering around 60 were part of a larger haul of 250 antiquities that German authorities had seized from Turkish art dealer Aydin Dikmen in 1997

NICOSIA: Cyprus on Monday put on display artifacts — some of them thousands of years old — that were returned after a Turkish art dealer looted them from the ethnically divided island nation decades ago.
Aydin Dikmen took the artifacts from the country’s breakaway north in the years after Cyprus’ split in 1974, when Turkiye invaded following a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece. The antiquities were kept in Germany after authorities there seized them in 1997, and protracted legal battles secured their repatriation in three batches, the last one this year.
Addressing the unveiling ceremony at Cyprus’ archaeological museum, President Nikos Christodoulides said the destruction of a country’s cultural heritage as evidenced in recent conflicts becomes a “deliberate campaign of cultural and religious cleansing that aims to eliminate identity.”
Among the 60 most recently returned artifacts put on display include jewelry from the Chalcolithic Period between 3500-1500 B.C. and Bronze Age bird-shaped idols.
Antiquities that Dikmen also looted but were returned years ago include 1,500-year-old mosaics of Saints Luke, Mark, Matthew and James. They are among the few examples of early Christian works to survive the Iconoclastic period in the 8th and 9th centuries when most such works were destroyed.
Cyprus’ authorities and the country’s Orthodox Church for decades have been hunting for the island’s looted antiquities and centuries-old relics from as many as 500 churches in open auctions and on the black market.
The museum’s antiquities curator, Eftychia Zachariou, told the ceremony that Cyprus in recent years has benefited from a shift in thinking among authorities in many countries who now opt to repatriate antiquities of dubious provenance.


Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria

Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria
Updated 22 July 2024
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Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria

Baby flamingos saved from drought-decimated lake in Algeria

OUM EL BOUAGHI: Around 300 pink flamingo chicks were rescued by volunteers in eastern Algeria after the salt lake where they hatched dried up following years of high temperatures and drought.
Thousands of flamingos migrate each year to nest in Lake Tinsilt, located around 450 kilometers (about 280 miles) southeast of the capital Algiers.
It is one of the largest wetlands in the country, with an area of more than 20 square kilometers.
“Barely a month ago there was water here,” volunteer Mourad Ajroud told AFP on Friday, pointing to what is now a vast expanse of cracked earth littered with the carcasses of dead birds.
The disappearance of the lake, which locals and Algerian media attribute to high temperatures and a years-long drought, has driven the adult flamingos away.
They left behind their unhatched eggs and defenseless chicks, dozens of which have died from hunger, thirst, poaching and wolf attacks.
A group of volunteers provided their cars and trucks to transfer 283 pink flamingos about 50 kilometers away to Lake Mahidiya, about 50 kilometers away.
The wetland near Ain Mlila remains flush thanks to a steady flow of water from nearby rivers and lakes.
The rescue operation was initiated by local amateur photographer Tarek Kawajlia, who documents the wildlife in his area, and noticed the decrease in the size of the lake and the flight of birds.
The volunteers carry out “morning and evening patrols to follow the chicks until they recover and are able to fly, so that they can return next year to the sabkha (marsh) and life can resume its normal course,” Kawajlia told AFP.
Ajroud, 53, said the group was not able to save all the birds.
“We couldn’t transport them all,” he said sadly, as another volunteer takes an injured bird to a veterinary clinic.
A few hours after the chicks were released at their new habitat, some adult birds joined them.
“The operation was successful and the parents found their little ones in a magnificent scene,” Kawajlia said in a comment on one of his photos posted to Facebook.
Lake Tinsilt is one of the around 50 bodies of water in Algeria declared wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar international environment treaty to protect wetlands.
Last year, about a hundred pink flamingos died at Lake Telamine in western Algeria’s Oran province due to wastewater pollution, according to environmental activists.


Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake

Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake
Updated 22 July 2024
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Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake

Artist swaps British Museum coin with fake
  • Ile Sartuzi said the idea came to him when he saw a museum volunteer handing visitors coins to handle

LONDON: A Brazilian conceptual artist swapped a historic British coin for a fake in the British Museum to highlight the large number of foreign objects it holds.
Ile Sartuzi said the idea came to him when he saw a museum volunteer handing visitors coins to handle.
He asked for an English Civil War-era silver coin because “It is one of the few British things in the British Museum” and then created a diversion while he swapped it for the fake.
Sartuzi told Reuters he deposited the original coin in the museum’s collection box on the way out. The Art Newspaper first reported his act, which he recounted in a video made for his master’s degree at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The British Museum said it would inform police about the incident, which took place in June.
“This is a disappointing and derivative act that abuses a volunteer led service aimed at giving visitors the opportunity to handle real items and engage with history,” a museum spokesperson said when asked for comment.
Sartuzi said institutions such as the British museum and France’s Louvre view themselves as the “holders of the treasures of humanity. The problem is that these institutions are the basis of imperialist cultures that looted a lot of these objects from the global south and world.”
The British Museum has been under scrutiny over the way it acquired some of the artefacts it holds, with some countries asking for pieces to be returned. Examples include the Parthenon Sculptures and Nigeria’s bronzes looted by British troops in 1897. It did not respond to Sartuzi’s allegations.
Sartuzi, who has exhibited in Brazil, Portugal and London, said he had sought advice from an art lawyer before swapping the coin.
The Museum dismissed an employee a year ago and ordered a review of security after it discovered hundreds of items had been stolen from its collection or were missing.


A 12-year-old girl is accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin over an iPhone

iPhones are displayed during an event in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP)
iPhones are displayed during an event in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP)
Updated 21 July 2024
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A 12-year-old girl is accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin over an iPhone

iPhones are displayed during an event in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP)
  • The recording shows the older child using bedding to suffocate her cousin as the younger girl slept in the top bunk, Gibson District Attorney Frederick Agee’s statement said

HUMBOLDT, Tennessee: A 12-year-old girl in Tennessee has been charged with murder, accused of smothering her 8-year-old cousin as the younger girl slept. A relative said they had been arguing over an iPhone.
A security camera recorded the killing, inside the bedroom they shared on July 15 in Humboldt, Tennessee, the county prosecutor said.
The recording shows the older child using bedding to suffocate her cousin as the younger girl slept in the top bunk, Gibson District Attorney Frederick Agee’s statement said. After the child died, “the juvenile cleaned up the victim and repositioned her body,” Agee said.
A relative told WREG-TV in Memphis that the girls had been arguing over an iPhone after coming from out of town to stay with their grandmother.
The girl was charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence after authorities obtained the video on Wednesday.
“I consider this to be one of the most disturbing violent acts committed by either an adult or juvenile that my office has prosecuted,” Agee wrote in the statement.
He said he would petition a judge to prosecute the girl, who turns 13 later this month, in adult court, which would allow for “a lengthier sentence, whether that will be through incarceration or supervision with court-ordered conditions.”