Before we had a preschool/playgroup in our community, we used to take turns gathering in each other’s homes for “mommy/daddy and me” socialization gatherings. On one occasion, a mother brought a bag full of toy soldiers to the play date at my house. I was extremely uncomfortable as the shooting and killing of these little plastic guys ensued. As a child, I never played with toy soldiers or guns, as typically these toys are reserved for boys. As a parent, I have consciously chosen to avoid such toys for my son, as I believe “peace begins in the home”. Why would I want to promote violence in my child’s play time?
[social_buttons]Luckily, my children are not growing up with real life violence surrounding them like the children of Iraq. It is natural for such violence to enter into children’s dramatic play; however, children in Iraq are often mistakenly assassinated for their toy guns. That’s why the organization La’Onf (the Arabic translation for the word nonviolence) has worked to get war toys banned in the Muthanna province. Peaceful Tomorrows, an organization founded by family members of September 11th victims, explains:
One example of La’Onf efforts to apply nonviolent principles in practical ways in the interests of children is the campaign against war toys.
In too many instances soldiers shot and killed children who were carrying toy guns that looked like real guns.
The campaign began with programs in which children could trade in their toy guns for soccer balls. It then expanded into lobbying efforts. La’Onf’s campaign has now resulted in legislation banning the sale of war toys in the province of Muthanna. La’Onf activists hope to see national legislation passed in the near future.
Many Americans would view such a ban on war toys as a loss of freedom or an interference of parental responsibilities. GI Joe has been a household name since 1964 in the US. Does playing with GI Joe promote violence in children and adults? Psychologists warn violent video games affect children’s aggressive behavior “because (1) the games are highly engaging and interactive, (2) the games reward violent behavior, and because (3) children repeat these behaviors over and over as they play”. Wouldn’t the same be true for dramatic play with toy soldiers and guns?
Image: monohex on Flickr under a Creative Commons License
That’s why i also support Warchild who’s slogan is:”It’s not hard to get the child out of the war but how do you get the war out of the child?” Too many children grow up in war-situations.
Stephanie - Green SAHM says
Violent video games are something I suspect my husband and I will have to discuss in a few years as my kids get old enough to consider them. Some of it may depend on how the focus goes… consider how many games have some violence, but the focus can be on completing tasks.
But definitely not something that rewards only violence or shows it too graphically.
Right now my kids have an Atari 2600 (cheap way to get video games for them!) and play on the kids’ sites online. I suppose you might technically say some of the games have violence, but it’s pretty abstract.
Guns are pretty tricky. I see my kids pretending all kinds of things are guns. They don’t need ones that look realistic or even remotely gun-like. The idea is completely ingrained without the help of the toy looking like one.
Jennifer Lance says
Terrebel, I love that slogan
Stephanie, I’ve seen the same thing at the school I work at. We have a motto, “No guns at school, pretend or otherwise.”
Jamie Ervin says
I’ve never allowed guns of any kind (water, bb, etc…) but my husband did allow play guns for his son. So when we got married I had to give on that one to some extent. They are NEVER to be pointed at a person or an animal or used in a violent way. Son has a potato and marshmallow gun that his uncle made for him. He likes to shoot at targets and trees.
There will NEVER be any violent video/computer games in my house. My children aren’t even allowed to watch PG rated movies.
I feel there is a vast difference between playing soldiers or police officers and general violence/fighting.
It’s a fine line and one I wish we could avoid all together!
Banning anything offensive is often the easiest, yet least effective method of education. Children are naturally attracted to what they can’t have, and sooner or later they WILL be exposed to violence, however hard the parent tries to restrict it. If they have had little or no exposure to this beforehand, the child will try and make their own judgments about these things and more often than not, they will place a small emphasis on human life. It’s up to the parent to slowly expose their children to such things, and to hold their children’s hand the way through and instill proper respect for human suffering and life.
Jennifer Lance says
Tom, that is very well said. Banning will never replace proper parenting. But what happens when proper parenting does not exist?
Global Patriot says
I mainly agree with Tom’s comment on restrictions, as such tactics rarely work. I remember asking my son what the point was of pretending to kill someone. His answer was interesting; that he would never think of doing that to his friends, but video games were just pretend and that was okay.
While I’m still bothered by the level of violence portrayed in many video games, it was comforting that he knew the difference between graphic images and real people.
But Jennifer’s point is also valid, what are the effects in households where parenting is limited?
Crimson Wife says
My parents banned violent toys and media growing up but my 2 brothers would turn innocuous objects into toy weapons. I see the same thing happening with my 3 year old son. Honestly, I think it’s the impact of testosterone…