Study: We're Safe to Tase Kids

Adolescents who were restrained by electroshock weapons did not sustain any serious injuries.

RTXKOT8.jpgReuters

PROBLEM: If police find themselves in confrontations with kids (or if parents are trying to curb their rampant sexting), is it okay (medically speaking) to tase them?

METHODOLOGY: The first large, independent study of conducted electrical weapon (CEW) injuries in real-world conditions found that significant injuries occurred less than one percent of the time. Building on this research, the authors identified 100 cases in which Tasers were used on adolescents by law enforcement agents during incidents ranging from civil disturbance to assault and burglary. All of the subjects, who had an average age of 16, had been subjected to routine medical screenings upon arrest.

RESULTS: Of the cases reviewed, none reported significant bodily injuries or cardiac effects. Mild injuries -- usually punctures from the CEW probes -- were sustained by 20 of the subjects. While the majority of kids had been Tased in the torso, no cardiac effects were reported.

CONCLUSION: Encounters with law enforcement that result in the use of electroshock weapons are hopefully a last resort, but they do not seem to leave adolescents at any greater risk of serious physical harm than adults.

IMPLICATIONS: Before you go Tase-crazy, note that the adolescents studied here stood 5 foot 8 inches and weighed 168 pounds on average. So they were technically kids, but they were also more or less adult-shaped. We still don't know what the effects of tasing small children might be (fortunately, we have a pretty small sample size to work with), but it remains inadvisable to do so. Also, no long-term studies exist on the psychological fallout of being Tased during one's formative years.

The full study, "Conducted Electrical Weapon (TASER) Use Against Minors: A Shocking Analysis," will be published in the journal Pediatric Emergency Care .

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Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon and a former writer and producer for The Atlantic's Health Channel.

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