Apple apologizes for Baby Shaker iPhone app

Parents whose children died or were permanently injured due to their babies being shaken protested outside an Apple store about an application called Baby Shaker.

Apple has apologized this week for the 'deeply offensive' iPhone application, which made a game of quieting crying babies by shaking them. The application was pulled earlier.

According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Shaken Baby Syndrome or Abusive Head Trauma is the leading cause of death from childhood maltreatment.

Outraged by the perceived callousness, Patrick Donohue and Jennipher Dickens, parents of a baby shake victims, organized a demonstration outside an Apple store in New York recently. Donahue signed an open letter to the board of directors of Apple, Inc. and AT&T, Inc.

Donohue – the founder of The Sarah Jane Brain Foundation – named after his daughter said he was “shocked, appalled and angered” at the corporate irresponsibility. Dickens is the foundation’s communication director.

“While we are glad public outcry forced Apple to pull the application, the cynical way it was pulled without any explanation, any apology or any plans to rectify the damage they have already caused can only lead me to one explanation: this was a purposeful public relations effort coinciding with their campaign to promote their 1 billionth application download during Child Abuse Awareness Month and Shaken Baby Prevention week!”

Perhaps more cynical than the pulling of the application were the reaction by tech journalists to the parents’ aggressive media campaign.

“Apple displayed extreme recklessness in launching this application and the results were immediate and disturbing. Below are a few quotes from journalists and editors based on our press release who prove the seriousness of your actions,” the letter said.

'I know! That baby shaker thing is so funny! We’ll mention your support in the review.' wrote John Biggs, editor-in-chief, CrunchGear;

'Uh, it’s a joke.' said Ken Layne, managing editor, Wonkette.com;

'Learn to take a joke,' snapped Richard Nalley, senior editor, ForbesLife;

And then, the ever so serious The New York Times, which likened the campaign to get rid of Baby Shaker, not to a group that can’t take a “joke,” but “censorship.”

'I couldn’t disagree with you more. The Apple App store is like a bookstore. It needs to be open to all the most repulsive ideas or we will have a regime of censorship. The next thing you know some corporate executive will decide that it is not politic to allow an app that furthers an idea you care deeply about,' said Saul Hansell, The New York Times technology reporter to the parent activists.

Shocking reactions to a serious issue, the app critics say.

The parents are demanding a “complete accounting as to who was responsible for the vetting and launching of this sick application” and for the companies “to develop a significant plan to reverse the damage they have caused.”

The open letter also threatened to hold more demonstrations on May 3 if they do not “receive an adequate response.”

The foundation is holding a 15-city tour to raise money for its righteous cause, which is to self described as to “create a model system for children suffering from all” pediatric brain injuries.

It’s not surprising that a foundation, dedicated to researching developmental treatments for children suffering from brain injuries, would utilize the release of a “sickening” iPhone application to bring attention to its cause.

But Don Tennant of ComputerWorld writes “I have all the respect in the world for the work the foundation is doing in support of families that suffer as a result of brain injuries. But I find myself agreeing in large part with the view of CrunchGear Editor in Chief John Biggs, who wrote this in an e-mail exchange with me this morning:

‘I think the entire issue has been blown out of proportion by an organization whose sole mission is to prevent baby shaking and hence is enjoying a boost in the news cycle this week. This is simply another permutation of ‘family' organizations blaming video games - in this case a crude simulation of violent behavior that I find abhorrent - for the violent actions in real life. ...The funds - however meager - spent on their press outreach efforts in order to capitalize on someone's harmless bad taste could be better put into more bedside education for new mothers.’'

Tennant continues, “I wouldn't characterize anything about the app as ‘harmless,’ because in my view stuff like this harms the decency and dignity of the human spirit, which is in enough need as it is of being uplifted. But let's not make a spectacle of the mistake. Let's move on.”