Written by Adam Kertesz
I recently got into a very interesting debate on Facebook and I thought it would be make a great blog entry as I'm curious to know what people's opinions on this matter are.
A friend of mine [we'll call her "Shawna"] posted on her Facebook page that her 4 year old son's camp was having a giant water fight the next day, and have asked the kids to bring in water guns. Shawna wasn't comfortable with this as she feels kids should not be playing with guns of any kind, even ones that shoot water.
It led to a series of interesting comments. here are some highlights that stood out to me:
"um xxxxxx picked up a stick yesterday and called it a shooter and we don't even have any guns!! Yes she has a big brother but still you just can't get away from these things!"
" ok but just because he's gonna learn to swear from his friends (or wherever...) doesn't mean it's going to be ok for HIM to swear in the house, right?"
" [...]children can be taught the difference between water guns (AKA Super soaker_ and violent guns... xxxxxxxx and yyyyyyy play water fight hide and seek in the back yard and "GUN VIOLENCE" the awareness of "GUNS" isn't even a thought i...n her mind... She just thinks its a fun way to spray people...."
" [...] how do you say ok to guns now and then teach them that they are actually bad when they get older?"
"If you ask [my children] they will tell you a gun is something that people use to hurt other people; so tell me, why would I let them even pretend to use one?!"
While most people who commented are parents, and I admittedly am not, the debate struck a chord with me and I felt compelled to get involved. Here are my thoughts.
First, there is a big difference between a toy gun and a water gun. I am heavily opposed to toy guns where their only purpose is for the child to pretend they are holding a real gun. While I think proper education can teach the child to separate a toy gun from a real gun, it is still not something that I feel is appropriate for a child to simulate.
A water gun however, is meant to be a fun toy. 95% of water guns, especially the popular Super Soakers, are big, bright, fun looking and colorful. That is not a coincidence. I do not even feel children under the age of 6 would make the correlation to actual gun and gun violence (if they are even aware of real guns).
To children, a Super Soaker used in a water fight is just a really fun device used for squirting water.
Of course this comes with a major 'BUT....'. Kids are smart. We all know that. It is not a far reach from Point A to Point B for the children to realize that there are similarities between a fun water gun and a real violent gun. And that is where the parents, teachers, and other influences in the children's lives come into play. Kids can and should be taught the difference between the two. And I believe it is not as ambiguous a difference as some people think. A real gun that they may have seen on TV is used by 'bad guys' for hurting people. A fun, exciting fluorescent green and orange Super Soaker is a toy, but should only be used in a fun water fight.
Please comment below as I'd love to hear your thoughts on this rather interesting debate.
And tune in next week when we discuss if having a water fight can lead to children wanting to start a real war... (that's a joke!...)