Culture & Entertainment

Are roaches the new remote-control cars for kids?

By: Stephanie Zolis
Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Are roaches the new remote-control cars for kids?

By: Stephanie Zolis
How would you feel if you came home to find your child torturing a cat or dog? What if it was a housefly, instead? Or perhaps a cockroach? The idea of a child inflicting pain on a helpless creature (no matter how pesky it may be) should be disturbing to any parent—and many are unhappy with a Michigan-based company that's encouraging children to act out sadistic experiments on insects. Sold by Backyard Brains, RoboRoach is a kit that instructs kids to sand and, with a needle, puncture cockroaches' thoraxes, before gluing electrodes throughout the body and attaching a battery pack to the roach's back—all in an effort to control the roach's movements with the help of a smartphone app. In essence, it turns a live being into a remote-control car. Remote-control cars 2.0: Mutilated roaches I don't believe that's the sort of behaviour parents would like their children to demonstrate. Kids are often fascinated by insects, and it's perfectly fine. But I would hope that most would encourage children to learn in a more compassionate fashion. When I was little, I collected snails, which I kept in a recycled popcorn pail. Initially, I fed and cared for them, but eventually my neglect led to their demise. It was heartbreaking for me, and I was riddled with guilt and shame. Both my child self and RoboRoach users inflicted harm on bugs. But what separates my act of destruction with what the RoboRoach kit aims to do is the underlying compassion or lack thereof. The connection between sadistic children or young adults and acts of violence toward humans later in life has been long established. And we're all familiar with how technology has taken bullying from the playground to the World Wide Web—and just how fatal that can be. Now we're also supposed to worry about how it can lead to physical harm against nonhuman creatures, too? (For those who think no harm, no foul, studies have shown that cockroaches experience pain and exhibit social behaviour; they possess complex memory and learning, and have enough neural circuits for consciousness.) Thankfully, Apple recently confirmed to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that it has rejected the RoboRoach app's bid to be sold in its App Store; Google is in the process of making a decision on whether it will become available for Android users. Here's to inspiring a generation of compassionate children and a humane future. Photo courtesy FlickrCC /Eric Lim Photography
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Are roaches the new remote-control cars for kids?

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