It is one of those $24,000 questions, isn’t it? It is an interesting discussion that I have had with a few friends lately. Does gun play as a child create boys and men who are prone to violence later on?
Nerf guns are all the rage right now for boys, and parents of boys age of 5 or older tend to fall into one of two camps. Either you have an arsenal of Nerf guns in your home or you are highly uncomfortable allowing your children to play with gun-like toys. Of course, neither camp is right or wrong. It is all about your personal parenting philosophy.
I started as a mom who did not want my kids playing with Nerf and other gun-like toys. I did not grow up with brothers nor do I recall my friends’ brothers playing with toy guns. Then, however, I became a mom of boys and realized that their DNA is quite different than I had anticipated. Lo and behold, today I am the parent with a virtual arsenal of toy artillery in my home.
It is a hobby that keeps my boys running around and physically active. It encourages them to play together. Their friends are into Nerf too and many kids can participate in at the same time without anyone feeling left out.
Apparently I am not the only one who feels this way because Nerf made $410 million in revenue for parent company Hasbro in 2011 alone. It is all the rage on college campuses too. Last spring when my girlfriends and I went back to our alma mater for the weekend, we walked right into a Nerf war taking place on the main lawn among a few hundred students. It looked like they were having an absolute blast. (Pun not intended.)
So, let’s get back to the original question. Does toy gun play lead to violent behavior?
While I am certainly no expert on the topic, I believe that a variety of other factors including a child’s home life and upbringing are substantially more important in determining future behavior than the toys they played with as a child. One could even argue, perhaps, that gun play as a child might get any inkling of that desire out of their systems.
Our kids understand the difference between pretend play and reality; between a Nerf war and a real one. (It turns out that my discomfort of gun-like toys for toddlers came from the fear of them not recognizing the difference between real play and pretend play.) Nor are Nerf wars my kids’ only hobby. They play organized sports, read books, do art projects, play computer games, play board games and yes, they watch television too.
If it were the case that gun play could lead to ill-fated behavior later in life, does that mean that girls who make their Barbie and Ken dolls kiss will turn out to be promiscuous? What about those who secretly fear that if their son plays will kitchen sets or dolls they might “become” gay?
Personally, I believe that gun play is the least of what makes a boy turn to violent behavior later in life, just like naked Barbie dolls do not make girls become sluts and dolls do not make boys become gay. While I do agree that we can encourage our children positively through play, I believe that it is about the lesson rather than the toy itself. What makes us become who we are later in life is more about our genetics, our personalities and our up-bringing than the toys we played with as a child.
What are your thoughts on toy-gun play? Nerf war, anyone?