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Officially it is already summer and not because the calendar says so but because the high temperatures have already warned us of it, and in what way! This means that our leisure is mainly based on riding a bicycle, spending the afternoons in the pool and cooling off with water pistols, something that can create some controversy. Is it really dangerous for children to play with squirt guns? Should we, as parents, forbid our children to entertain themselves with 'potentially' deadly toys?
It is not a question of being alarmist because Spain, the country where I live, is not the United States and, luckily here, the deaths of almost more than 3,000 children and adolescents by firearms are not registered per year, according to an investigation by EveryTown For Gun Safety.
I simply, watching the other day play with several children, among them my daughter, the oldest of 8 years, I asked myself the following question that I want to share with you: Is a squirt gun just an innocent toy or does it represent something else?
Regardless of personal opinions or family policy on toy guns that each may have, there are few parents who this summer will not see their children with a squirt gun in hand. Even children who are not allowed access to these types of toys will take advantage when they are with their friends and off their parents' radar to participate in a water fight.
Some parents see this as a normal part of children's play and a healthy form of role play, but others see a perpetuation of aggressive attitudes and ideas with real-life consequences. So who is right?
The truth of the matter is that research on this topic is limited and often inconclusive, and opinions vary widely. This can, of course, be frustrating for parents who only want to do what is best for their children, but much of this discussion will fall into personal preference.
However, there are some universal guidelines to keep everyone safe and having fun this summer. Kristin Hoffman, Ph.D., director of the Trauma Psychology program at Johns Hopkins Children's Hospital (Baltimore), explains that there is no definitive answer as to whether or not a parent should allow squirt guns in their home or during the summer game. 'There is some research showing that toy gun play increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior and play in children. ' says and adds: 'However, there is no data linking childhood toy gun play with future use of real guns or harming someone with a gun as an adult.'
While Hoffman doesn't suggest a universal ban on squirt guns for all children, he does caution that, in some cases, it may be wise to disallow toy guns. 'Among children who tend to have higher benchmark levels of aggressive, destructive, or active play than others their age, the use of toy guns may increase the chances of further aggression, possible safety concerns and violent themes at play.' , He says. Sensitivity to personal history is also an important consideration, and Hoffman notes that children who have experienced or witnessed gun violence in their own lives can be understandably scared or anxious even with toy guns.
So if you've decided to allow squirt guns this summer, either enthusiastically or reluctantly, what you can do is set rules for the appropriate game:
- The objective of the game should never be to 'kill' someone.
- If the child does not comply with this first rule, there will be consequences. The most immediate: leave the game in the middle.
- On the other hand, parents must change the way we designate the object. How about we stop using the word gun and switch to launcher?
- Another proposal is to invite the child to develop his imagination when playing and that, instead of 'killing anyone', we invent a game that is, for example, write our name on the ground with the water that comes out of the toy or who is the least wet.
Firearm incidents are the third leading cause of death among American children, so while it may seem a long way from our society, it is essential that we educate our children and ourselves about gun safety.
That is why I think it is good to bring up the issue of squirt guns with the children and make sure that it is a symbolism and not a future threat to them and to us.
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