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Toy guns - okay or a no-no?

Posted by: Brigitte Rozario Post(s) by this blogger

Should children be allowed to play with toy guns? Some parents are dead set against them because of safety issues and/or because of the noise. Others say they ban it from their homes for fear that their child will grow up to have violent tendencies.

Are toy guns okay for your home?

Here's what two mothers have to say about it:

Sharifah Sabah Alsree, mother of two - a boy aged 11 years old and a girl, aged eight:

"When I was a child, I played with toy guns but only for a short time. Mum took it off me when she realised the tiny plastic bullets could be quite dangerous if they hit anyone in the eye.

As a mother now, I don't see much harm in allowing my kids to play with toy guns. I let both my boy and girl play laser-tag. But they both also attend cooking class and Lego Robotics and Engineering as well.

As with any toy, younger children should be supervised. I would consider the safety aspect. Like any toy I buy, it should be well built and not break apart and cut their fingers. It also shouldn't be shooting dangerous projectiles that might seriously injure anyone. I consider those that shoot foam darts with suction to be okay. The 'laser' guns with blinking lights and sound effects shoot nothing, and are therefore, pretty safe. How can anyone deprive a child of water guns? They're so much fun.

I don't believe a happy, well-adjusted child will turn violent just because they chase their friends around a pool with a water gun every Sunday.

Generally, I don't believe guns per se make kids violent. It depends on individual personality. A child with a ready propensity for violence can turn any everyday object, be it a book or water bottle, into a weapon and hit someone, or torture some poor insect, whether or not they have ever been introduced to toy guns.

Besides personality, I can think of other factors that can make a child grow up violent. Copying violent role-model/adult behaviour like yelling, arguing and hitting observed in their home environment or on TV can contribute to violent behaviour.

I think some parents have big hangups about toy guns. I just don't have them.

I think we should never underestimate the benefits of pretend-play - even with toy guns and weapons! It stimulates imagination and develops creativity and innovation. Seriously! My kids come to me with all sorts of 'inventions' from everyday objects - catapults using rubber band and ice-cream sticks, water balloon bombs of varying sizes for different impact, Lego guns with viewfinder, straw helicopter blades and plastic bag parachutes, etc. Of course, all this was after they attended some innovative workshops on children engineering and such.

More importantly, I want to share an observation:

Let's extend the idea to virtual guns. I was watching my son play Modern Warfare 2 on his Xbox. He was playing online with other kids from around the world and it struck me that there are many levels of learning happening here. There he was, forming teams and coordinating mission strategy with other online gamers. When someone gets shot, another player would come and revive them with medicine before continuing with the mission. That was a 'wow' moment for me!

This was not a person staring zombie-like into a computer screen, playing in isolation. This was a goal-driven activity with a strong sense of teamwork and cooperation. There was dialogue back and forth. He was making friends around the world, planning, strategising, making quick decisions and taking turns in leadership roles.

Goes to show, there's a positive side to everything."

Merryn Tan

Merryn Tan, mother of one boy aged 3+:

"As a child, I did not play with toy guns because my Dad was with the Navy and often away leaving my mum and us three girls (we have no brothers) so we always did girly stuff such as baking and cooking. In other words, we were actually helping Mum with her daily chores!

I don't forbid my son from playing with toy guns but I don't encourage it, either. I don't buy him guns but if he ever comes across one in the clinic or whenever he is playing with his friends, I won't become hysterical when he actually plays with it.

I dislike the idea of them pretending to shoot each other and playing dead. Kids his age are supposed to be cute and cuddly, not going around 'killing' others! I know for sure when he actually goes to school in the near future, he'll be exposed to toy guns eventually. So why should I expose him to them now? Some things can wait and toy guns are definitely one of them!

I do think that playing with toy guns makes children more violent. Do you see children using guns to hug each other? Children with toy guns only know how to shoot with it and if the opponent doesn't play dead, they might get rough and use the guns to hit their friends.

Picture this, a kid at his most calm self building a sandcastle at the beach. Another kid with a super powerful water gun comes attacking that sandcastle and ruining it. A nice sight? I don't think so.

Children learn by example. Why instil the idea of shooting with a gun in the first place? Before kids learn to shoot, they must know the reason why guns exist in the first place. Tell me now, why do guns exist in the first place? To wound, kill ....

How do I explain that to my kid? How do I tell him that guns are made to wound and kill others when all this while I've been guiding him to be a loving and compassionate person?

Do I tell him that guns are used for self-defence? Does it mean it is okay to shoot others in the midst of rage?

My greatest fear is that my son will turn into a 'monster' as a result of playing with toy guns; that he will 'shoot' everyone at home, including our guests."

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