Pictures of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (that's William and Catherine) and their kids over the weekend depicted a family (almost) like any other. Prince William played polo, while mum Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, watched on with the kidlets in tow. It looked like a nice sunny day at Beaufort Polo Club in Tetbury, Gloucestershire.
But when the photos were published on the internet, the world suddenly had something to say about them.
See, amid the innocent family scene was little Prince George, playing with a couple of toy guns.
Cue, public outrage!
This isn’t okay anymore... My American side here, biased maybe b/c of everyday #gunviolence in USA,but my British side agrees. No child in this day and age should look at any gun as a fun toy. This looks far too real. .(And I LOVE Prince George, don’t get me wrong!) @teamtrace pic.twitter.com/UEqtFi5WTH— Daisy Torme (@daisytorme) June 10, 2018
Here’s why the sight of #PrinceGeorge playing with a toy gun is triggering for some of us. Black mothers in the US have to teach their sons not to play with anything (a toy gun, a cell phone, etc.) a policeman could claim looked like a real gun. Their lives depend on it.— Deesa Roberts (@DeesaRoberts) June 10, 2018
Do they have a point? Considering the daily mass murders that happen across the globe, are guns an appropriate toy for boys? And then where do we draw the line? Are nerf guns too violent? What about fluro-coloured water pistols? Should it all go out the window?
It’s not a new debate. In fact, it’s been plaguing parents for 30 years. The New York Times published an article titled ‘Do Toy Guns Foster Violence?’ in 1988.
People are complaining because Prince George had a plastic gun 🙄 I had a plastic gun when I was little guess what I grew out of it I didn’t grow up to be a mass shooter or become obsessed with guns I hate guns now so just leave the boy alone and let him be a child— Roxanne Fowler (@Roxanne_Tegan) June 10, 2018
And broadly speaking, experts say that children’s toy guns do not link to real-life violence as an adult.
Kinderling Conversation’s Shevonne Hunt has a little nerf gun fanatic at home, and she calls BS on this whole discussion.
“Gun violence is not tied to kids playing with toy guns. No more than becoming a real princess is tied with wearing a princess dress. Boys - you will find - will make anything a gun if they get the chance... it could be sticks, Tupperware or an old sock. It's called ‘fantasy’ for a reason, it's play-acting and as long as parents are teaching children about the world around them, we'll be fine.”
Listen to The Parent Panel:
Various research projects back this up, particularly a study by London Metropolitan University in 2003, which found that children who are disciplined for gun play become "dispirited" and "withdrawn". They come to believe they're doing something wrong, but will continue playing the same way, but with shame.
Researcher and author of We Don't Play With Guns Here (where this research is published), Penny Holland, found that when children play freely, they are more engaged and their imaginations thrive, which we know is so important for development.
"Children do not determine the influences that they are subjected to. They are subjected to violent images on main stream media. We need to be supporting children in working through the themes of violence," Penny explains to The Guardian.
As for Prince George, let's not forget that his uncle was in the army, and his father a pilot in the British Armed Forces. Their family is likely no stranger to these weapons, and we have to trust they've had private discussions around this.
In Australia, very few of us have ever come into contact with real weaponry. But if you do choose to allow your children toy guns, here’s a few guidelines to separate fun from reality.
- Choose unrealistic colours, like pink, blue or green.
- Emphasise the golden rule – do not hurt others.
- Keep an eye out for truly violent behaviour and as the parent, address that when you see it.
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