Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you would like an expert to answer, send it to Curiouskidsus@theconversation.com.
Why don’t parents want their kids to play with fake guns? – Henry, age 11, Somerville, Massachusetts
A big reason why parents don’t like kids playing with fake guns is that they’re afraid you’ll get hurt.
It can be difficult for others to determine whether a gun is real or just a toy. While you and your friends may be able to see that it’s a harmless game, others won’t be so sure. Someone could mistake your toy gun for a real gun, see you as a threat and try to defend themselves, hurting you in the process.
Hundreds of children die every year from gun violence in the United States. Because of these numbers, people like us – a pediatrician who has been dealing with gun violence for 40 years and a Firearms injury prevention researcher – are very concerned about firearms that are not stored properly and the injuries they can cause.
Some of the toy guns that kids and parents can buy are very similar to real guns, including pistols and rifles. Because these toys look so real, children who come across a real gun may not realize that it is dangerous and not a toy. They can pick it up, play with itaim it at a friend or yourself and pull the trigger. More than 100 children are killed every year in the US because she or a friend handled a gun that went off unintentionally.
Violent games encourage violence
Playing with toy guns can also affect the way you interact with the world and think about problem solving. Researchers have found that just seeing guns can make people act more aggressively weapons effectand it applies to toy guns. After viewing a film that contains a lot of gun violence, children are also more interested in playing with guns. These are reasons why parents want to limit children’s exposure to gun-related movies and TV shows and prefer to let children play with toys that aren’t guns.
Playing games that involve violence can make you more comfortable with violence and aggression. Even children can become more violent themselves. Researchers have found that children who play a lot of violent video games tend to show more signs of aggression than those who don’t play them.
We’re afraid that kids who play a lot of video games and play with toy guns will believe that settling disputes with violence and weapons is the right thing to do, when there are more constructive ways to resolve disputes.
Real guns are not toys
Adults who have firearms in their homes have a responsibility to keep them under lock and key and to prevent anyone from improperly accessing and using them. But some people have guns don’t lock them up. Or they keep them loaded with ammunition, which is very unsafe. It’s always best to treat a gun like it’s real and loaded.
What should children do if they find a firearm in their home or a friend’s house? The answer is very simple: don’t touch it. Leave it alone and tell an adult, even if you think it is a toy. If you check it yourself, the gun could go off accidentally and injure someone if it turns out to be real.
The same is true at school. If you find a gun or hear classmates talking about a firearm, tell a teacher. Even if you’re worried that your friends will get mad, telling a teacher can help prevent serious injury or even death.
Parents who are responsible gun owners will teach their children about gun safety and how to handle and shoot safely. But if you are a school age boy, you should never handle a gun yourself.
Playing with or handling weapons – real or fake – is dangerous and can be fatal.
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