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Screaming kids not wanted in Australian mall

Feb. 21, 2013 at 3:29 PM ET

A mall in Australia has started a worldwide controversy after posting a sign warning parents that screaming children won’t be tolerated in a play area next to the food court.

The sign reads, "Stop! Parents please be considerate of other customers using the food court. Screaming children will not be tolerated in the centre." Whether the sign constitutes yet another full-on brat ban, the message is largely the same – children are not welcome here (even if “here” is a play area for children). Brenda Mulcahy, who manages the mall in Sydney’s northern beaches area, told the Sydney Daily Telegraph that staff and customers complained about children “running amok” and “screaming” in the food court, near the mall’s playground for children under 5. She told The Manly Daily, a local newspaper, "Mothers have to be more responsible. We have had so many complaints."

A mall in Australia wants to ban kids from screaming in a play area near the food court.
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A mall in Australia wants to ban kids from screaming in a play area near the food court.

Parents are up in arms about the sign and the comments. Many think the mall’s problem is putting a play area next to the food court, not the kids using said play area. "If the general public is not happy, they should put it in an area that is not so close to the coffee shops or food court,” Gilce Oliveira, a mother who frequents the play area, told the Manly Daily.

One Sydney Daily Telegraph reader by the moniker of “M Dunn of Sydney” commented:

“How terrible that children are yelling in a CHILDREN'S PLAY AREA! Don't build these types of areas for children in highly accessed areas, and don't expect children under 5 to quietly walk around play equipment, silently enjoying themselves!”

Brat bans are hardly a new concept. But, in the past they’ve generally been limited to more typically upscale venues, like first class in airplanes or fancier restaurants. Cracking down on kids at a play area is perhaps the strongest indication yet of how deep the debate over kids in public places has gone. Those favoring the bans often complain that today’s parents don’t control their children.

Sidney Daily Telegraph Reader “Lroy” summed those sentiments up, writing:

“I don’t know what has happened to modern parents, how many times have I sat in a restaurant and had to endure a bunch of 5-year-olds running around screaming while the parents blissfully ignore them... if you bring your kids up to be wild animals, don’t be sorry when that’s how society treats them.”

Parents and others who oppose the bans complain that society has become increasingly intolerant towards children. And they note that children aren’t the only ones suffering from a lack of manners these days. What about the adults yelling into their cellphones? Or adults with questionable hygiene practices? One Daily Telegraph commenter suggested the mall put up signs for them, posting:

“Please be considerate of other customers and refrain from coughing and/or sneezing. Spreading germs will not be tolerated.”

Dana Macario is a Seattle-area mom who sees just as many (if not more) poorly-behaved adults as children in public spaces.

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