Consent for tickling?

Russell Brand thinks that tickling kids should be banned

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Should tickling children be banned?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

Russell Brand is against tickling children - and he might turn violent if it happens to his daughters.

He regrets times he has done it, saying it violates a child's space.

But is tickling playful or harmful for kids?

The claim

Brand wants to make tickling children illegal until they are "old enough to decide for themselves".

The comedian told the Daily Star about his regrets of tickling David Baddiel's son, Ezra. He said that it fills him with "dreadful shame" that "makes me want to punch myself in the face".

Brand added: “Which is what I will do to anyone who tickles either of my daughters until they are old enough to decide for themselves whether they want to be tickled or not, which by my reckoning is at 35.”

He argues that tickling takes away a child's "right to their own space and peace", and asks: "Would you do it to an adult? Would you insert your rigid fingers into their belly or their armpits? Of course not."

The counter-claim

The Daily Mail's Jan Moir calls the comedian's tickling ban a "joke", accusing him of being arrogant and seeing himself as "a superior being beyond censure".

She argues that tickling is part of "familial affection" for aunts, uncles and grandparents, and she has only seen "utter delight" from the tots.

Moir writes: "The point is that they are babies, in the loving embrace of their family, where being cuddled and held is an important part of their physical and emotional development.

"Seeing sexualisation (‘rigid fingers’) and harm where none is intended, while assuming that tiny children need the protection of sophisticated adult hegemonies just causes more damage than it seeks to prevent."

The facts

Sophie Scott, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London, told the Guardian that tickling is a way of kicking off pre-verbal communication.

Professor Scott, who is an expert on what causes laughter, explains that the first laughs tend to occur as a result of tickling in humans and other mammals.

She said: “Tickling exists as a mechanism to get laughter going.”

Robert R. Provine, a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland and author of 'Curious Behaviour', examines the importance of tickling in infancy.

In an interview with Slate, he said: “When people say they hate being tickled and there’s no reason for it, they forget that it’s one of the first avenues of communication between mothers and babies.

“You have the mother and baby engaged in this kind of primal, neurologically programmed interaction.”

Tickling is, in many ways, our first conversation, preceding the development of language.

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