From learning toys to miniature cars, toys have always been an influence on children. Young children have difficulty separating facts from fantasy. Children learn through play, and they learn by example. It is through imaginative play that the child begins to learn some of the roles and behaviours of society. Learning to cooperate, negotiate, take turns and play by the rules are all important skills learned through play. The skill learning process through play and games is applied in Montessori kindergartens which have turned out to successful method of teaching all around the world.
Young boys and girls have always looked up to their Barbies or grew in excitement when watching their Hot Wheelz fly around the track trying to escape the jaws of a shark. Many of these toys are beginning to develop to be more realistic such as nerf guns or army figures. With advancements in technology, an increasing amount children are beginning to play on their tablet or other digital device rather than playing with physical toys. Violent toys weren’t as accessible to children a few years back, and since, children have shown an increase in violence of ages 10 and up.
It is important that violent toys are monitored because they are easily accessible, are funded by the army and is becoming increasingly popular in video games but these issues can be easily prevented by parents. Some of the most popular toys lately have been of toy guns or violent figurines which populate the shelves at toy stores. Violent toys are in an abundance and are easily accessible to children. The M2 Research company did a study which showed that 91% of kids between the ages of 8-11 play the popular shoot-them-up war game, “Call of Duty”.
This game is made for an older audience and has an ESRB rating of M for Mature. It is rated M because of blood and gore, intense violence, strong language which is not something an 8 year old should be exposed to. Many toy stores now place their violent items on the first shelf in front of the entrance because of their success in the market. Violent toys can be purchased in many stores around a city, including local dollar stores. Games like Call of Duty are even being sold at Toys ‘R’ Us franchises, despite their “Mature” rating.
It is not hard to see that violent toys and video games sell when characters like Master Chief from Microsoft’s successful Halo franchise become the face of specific video game consoles, such as the “XBOX”. Children are able to learn about their culture through the toys that they play with. If a child was asked what a gun was, they would be able to identify it from the GI Joe they were playing with. As stated earlier, violent toys are easy to come by and would be a daunting task for a parent to prohibit their child from using them.
According to an Article in the New York Times, The U. S. Military and the American Toy industry have a long time history of working together. Both parties benefit from the relationship. War toys not only have negative impacts on child’s behaviour but they help in cultivating any negative ideas, even set up some beliefs on their minds that may not be suitable for them. Some experts argue that war toys are also used as a propaganda tool that portray one group as right and powerful whereas the enemies to be less powerful and wrong.
It is parents’ guidance that is necessary to keep their children away from such toys that propagate violent sadistic behaviours in them as well as help them escape from the propaganda cavity. The relationship is not a hand off, but in fact a trade. The army does not just fund toy development, but it also develops its weapons and vehicles off toys. For example, the M-16 rifle is actually based of a product of Mattel.
Other inspirational items include, SuperSoakers (for quick-loading rifles), model planes (recon drones), and video game controllers (for robotic vehicles). By creating new military advancements off of toys, the army is able to train today’s troops as children. Younger children have embraced electronic toys, and so have the army. The Institute for Creative Technologies, is a company created by the army in 1999. It is a cooperation between the entertainment, video game and computer science industries and the Army to develop training simulations.
These training simulations are made to be as close to reality as possible by using high definition graphics, realistic weapons and entertaining story lines to create an immersive degree of reality a player experiences, which is a key sales attribute in the video game market, and vital in a military simulation. The Army now has its own game, America’s Army, which can be downloaded without charge from its recruiting Web site, AmericasArmy. com. At the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, a 15-inch remote-controlled truck called the Dragon
Runner, is guided by a six-button keypad modeled after Sony’s PlayStation 2 video game control. Military designers felt confident that soldiers would be familiar with it, and partially trained to use it. The Dragon runner can launch with the use of a bungee cord or simply a toss of the arm, similar to toy planes that a child would play with. In today’s modern society where violent video games make a large percent of the industry, many children turn to their video games than board games or other toys.
As past U. S. Senator Joseph Lieberman (1998) stated recently, “these games … are part of a toxic culture of violence that is enveloping our children, that is helping to desensitize them and blur lines between right and wrong, and encouraging some of the most vulnerable of them to commit violence”. In fact, playing violent video games was implicated as a possible contributory factor in schoolyard massacres, specifically at Columbine High and Westside Middle School in 1999. Despite the growing concern, children still seem to be spending more time playing video games.
A recent report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation (1999) reveals that a majority of 2 to 18-year-old children in the U. S. have access to a video game console in their home. Nearly three-fourths of all children surveyed have at least one console. Also, a third of all children in this age group have a video game system in their own room. The data from this study also shows that 8 to 18-year-old boys spend 41 minutes per day playing video games whereas girls in this age group spend only 12 minutes.
These findings suggest that many children not only have access to home gaming systems, but also spend at least some time every day playing such. Several studies have examined the impact that gaming has on individuals’ aggressive tendencies. Some of the research conducted in the 1980s found a relationship between game playing and aggression. Video games in the 1980s did not even compare to the realistic video games of today and were much less violent.
Consistent with this thinking, more recent evidence found by the University of New South Whales suggests a positive relationship between playing interactive violent media and aggressive, and prefer violent gaming content. There is also a growing body research done by Stoney Brook University that shows a link between playing violent video games and aggressive thoughts, interpretations, and/or behaviours. The same researchers revealed that playing violent video games is significantly associated to aggressive behaviour.
As a result from all this research, it ecomes important to examine just how much violence is in video games popular with youth. Although the research shows how negative violent video games can be on society, their popularity continues to increase. There are more than 40,000,000 copies of Call of Duty, the most popular franchise, in the U. S. alone. Violence provides an immersive thrill that mainly males are hardwired to enjoy and this sells the product. Children are constantly observing the world around them and with the influence of violent toys, it is important that parents take a balanced approach by monitoring and adjusting the views towards violence.
It will be a difficult challenge to put an end to violence in toys and media, and for greater odds of success, it is important that parents conform their child’s views toward violence. Completely cutting of a child from violent toys and games may back-fire as the child may desire the forbidden. Holding a “weapon” does not make all children potential killers, but if explained, can rather be used for slaying dragons with their imagination. Parents should also check the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) displayed on all video game covers.
The ESRB informs parents on the content within the game, and its age-appropriateness. Parental controls are also available on all new video game consoles. Parents can use these controls to prohibit content they do not approve of in games and even media that is streamed through the devices. Parents should also limit the use of violent items in their household to reduce chances of their child becoming obsessed. It is possible that a child becomes emotionally attached to their favourite toy, which may influence them in the long run.
Violence has made its way into the average home through children’s toys and video games, the same toys that are funded by the military, but has been increasingly relevant in video games, although this can be solved through parents’ actions. Violence toys are not necessarily a bad thing, but should still be watched carefully as different children react to it in different ways. Many kids enjoy having a nerf gun war with their fellow peers and do not end up becoming serial killers. Until further and more concrete research has been done, we will not truly know the effect of violent toys on children.
Courtney from Study Moose
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