'Is unrestricted internet access any safer than giving them a toy gun?' - Irish psychotherapist on Prince George playing with a gun
When Britain's Prince George was pictured playing with a toy gun, a toy knife and handcuffs at the weekend, it sparked a reaction from two separate camps.
The four-year-old prince, who is known to have an interest in the police, was pictured playing with his gun beside his sister Charlotte and his mother Kate as his dad William played polo in Gloucestershire yesterday.
When the photos landed, many reacted on Twitter arguing that, in the context of gun violence in the US, no child should be allowed to play with a toy gun. Others disagreed and said toy guns, toy knives and toy handcuffs are a safe way for children to role play and learn about the world.
Irish psychotherapist Anne McCormack, who works with children in her private practice in north Dublin, said that an expectation could fall on the British royal family since they’re constantly in the public eye.
“There could be an expectation that they’re more careful about the messages they give their children and the wider society on what’s acceptable and what’s not.”
“Having a toy gun isn’t the same as giving a child the message that gun violence is OK. There’s the opportunity when the child is older to separate that out and to learn the value of respecting others and not being aggressive in any way.
“I know that some parents would think giving them guns is allowing them in some way to be aggressive,” but she added, “it would be about the parents supervising and making sure there’s no aggression, and then having a conversation with the child about aggressive behaviour.”
“It’s all conversation for when the child is older. It’s up to parents to decide what toys they’ll allow their children to play with. I would be more concerned about the unlimited access to the internet some children are getting than any plastic toy that a child is playing with while the parent is standing right next to them.”
Children learn about their world through interacting through play, Ms McCormack says. As young children grow, parents can teach them not to be aggressive
“A lot of parents feel that toy guns aren’t appropriate toys and yet some kids can find them fun toys to play with.”
“It’s important to add context and to understand that the toys that parents give their children could have an impact on the messages their children are getting about the world.”
“If you’re giving a child a toy gun, at some stage later, it would be good to chat to children about guns and what the function of guns are, when they’re older.”
“It’s important that children are free to play in a safe way and use their imagination. Toy guns have always been part of the stack of toys that young boys would take from.”
“There could be some role plays of being a policeman and that’s quite traditional for young children wanting to play mums and dads, doctors and nurses, or the police man. They’re typical games that children play.”
“Sometimes parents would allow their children to play on an iPad and give them unrestricted access to that, so is that any more safe than giving them a toy gun to play with?”