December 10th, 2015
I was horrified. My husband came home from dropping our 5 year old son off at kindergarten yesterday with a bewildered look on his face. Our son’s teacher had a message for us this morning. Evidently, he is “obsessed with guns.” What? How can that be? We don’t allow toy guns or gun play. He has never seen a gun in the media. In fact, we have gone to great lengths to shelter him from any exposure to gun violence. Guns are for hunting and guns can hurt people. So, as we say, we do not play with guns. End of story.
Not any more. The story unfolds in a new chapter now. I felt physically ill at the thought of my child running around the playground playing gun games. And, at the same time, I know that his only exposure to guns had been an occasional water pistol, which I don’t condone, but it’s happened at parties. I wondered, “Is he ‘obsessed’ because I’ve overprotected him? Is he confused by the rules of play because he doesn’t understand the reality?” I called the principal at school right away to talk about the school policy and let her know we certainly do not allow gun play at home. I wanted her to know the source had to be coming from other children that our son was emulating.
I arrived early for pick up to speak with his teacher. She assured me this was normal and workable. I left feeling a good deal less horrified, but could still feel a heaviness in my belly. So many questions arose about our society, media and how to protect children from undue worries. I know many other families, good families, who allow their children to watch and play violent scenarios. Unless I choose to homeschool, and even then, we will continue to meet this conflict.
It was hot when I picked up our son, and I was steaming inside, so we went for frozen yogurt at our son’s favorite place, Menchie’s. Lo and behold, even the ice cream parlor is having an identity crisis when it comes to violence and children. My son reached up to grab a cup, but pulled his hand back when he caught sight of the unusual image displayed on the container. Plastered on the cups were promotional images of menacing looking boys and men brandishing swords and GUNS! Yes, guns. On the ice cream bowls. Why? Really, why do we ‘as a people’ allow this sort of rampant advertising of violence to our youth? Dare I say, “Shame on you, Menchie’s, for putting ad dollars first.” Luckily, there were “regular” pink, non-violent cups available in the back. The cashier was sympathetic to my concerns. I was astounded that no one else had brought up this issue before.
So, the story continues. I do not know the answers. I know we need to keep asking questions. I have some big questions now. I’d love your feedback.
Is it acceptable for media companies to advertise violent movies in public spaces?
Do such advertisements normalize violence?
Are we as a society desensitized to violent advertisement?
Should gun play be allowed at school? At home?
Please chime in with your wisdom in the comments!
Abby Wills, MA, E-RYT
Shanti Generation, Co-Founder, Program Director
Abby brings her passion for developmental education and deep respect for the tradition of yoga to her work guiding youth and teachers in contemplative arts. Abby’s approach is informed by studies in social justice and democratic education at Pacific Oaks College, as well as two decades of training in yoga.