Should You Allow Toy Guns in Your Home?

Hybrid Images / Cultura / Getty Images

The debate over gun control has spilled over into debates about “toy gun control.” While some people argue allowing children to play with toy guns only encourages aggression and criminal behavior later in life, others argue that playing with toy guns is a natural part of growing up that won’t harm children.

A 2002 survey that was published in Pediatrics found that 67% of parents believed that children should never play with toy guns and 66% of respondents stated they had never allowed their child to play with a toy gun.

As you make your decision about whether to allow your child to play with toy guns, it’s important to consider the facts.

Research on Toy Guns and Aggression

The research studies on toy guns offer mixed reviews. A 1992 study published in Early Education and Development found that there was a link between toy gun play and aggressive behavior. The authors of the study, explained that allowing children to rehearse war play may lead to kids viewing life in terms of “good and evil,” and killing people during pretend play may breed antisocial behavior.

Other studies have suggested that the toy guns aren’t the issue – it’s parents' attitude about aggressive behavior and guns that makes a difference. Some experts have suggested that exposure to violent programs and video games may be the real problem that’s contributing to aggressive behavior in children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents that, “Playing with toy weapons and guns may cause more aggressive, violent behavior in some children.” Much of the research on toy guns has been conducted on healthy children.

Clearly, children with mental health issues, cognitive delays, or behavior problems may be more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior after playing with toy guns.

The other major warning the AAP has issued is that many children mistake real guns for toy guns, which lead to many gun injuries and deaths each year.

Many people also view pellet guns and BB guns as toys, despite the fact that they can cause serious injury, or even death.

Decide Where to Draw the Line

Despite many parents choice to prohibit toy guns, at one point or another most kids will turn just about anything into a gun. Decide where you’ll draw the line on toy guns and weapon-related play.

Some parents who don’t allow toy guns choose to allow squirt guns. Other parents don’t buy guns but if a child chooses to turn his toast into a pretend gun, they avoid making it a big deal. It’s important to consider how you’ll respond to various situations so you can set healthy limits and establish clear rules.

Teach Gun Safety

Even if you don’t plan to allow toy guns in your home, it’s essential that you talk to your child about gun safety. Kids need to know what to do if they see a gun in someone's possession or if they find one in someone's home. Here are some other safety tips:

  • Don’t allow any toy guns in your home that look like real guns. Unfortunately, many accidents and deaths occur each year because real guns are confused as toys.
  • Never treat BB guns, pellet guns, airsoft rifles, or paintball guns as toys. The AAP reports that since the 1980s, there have about four deaths each year related to air rifles. If you are going to allow older children to use them, provide appropriate supervision and use proper safety precautions.
  • Talk to your child about the difference between TV and video game violence and real-life violence. Young children struggle to recognize that unlike in cartoons, human beings don’t come back to life. Limit your child’s exposure to violence in the media.
  • If you are going to allow toy guns in the home, establish rules. For example, don’t allow your child to aim toy guns at people’s heads or don’t allow guns to be pointed at anyone who isn’t playing a game.
  • If your child behaves overly aggressive or becomes preoccupied with guns or violence, seek professional help

Read More: The Pros and Cons of Zero Tolerance Policies

Child Behavior Problems: What's Normal and What Isn't

Continue Reading