We live in an area where guns are not unusual. The majority of Virginians embrace their right to bear arms and as a consequence, many children are exposed to them at a young age. We are not of that mindset. I've never purchased toy guns for my kids and I just am not a fan, the same way I'm not a fan of Barbie...there is nothing wrong with it but it's not my preference.
However, my son has recently started asking questions about guns since he hears about them from boys at school. My son Rohan is in the first grade. He believes himself to be a future paleontologist or wildlife biologist. In other words, he loves animals. So when happened upon a new dinosaur game on the iPad, I was surprised that he started talking about "killing" predators. I discouraged him from playing the game but he wasn't that interested until a few days later. We were up early on a Saturday morning and he started telling me about different types of guns. Really? Rohan had never even played with a toy gun, how did this happen so quickly? It freaked me out but not as much as him saying that he no longer felt bad if he "had to" kill dinosaurs even though he previously felt really bad about it. How can three days bring about such a change of heart? In explaining the game to me he started showing me different guns and I was stunned to see the exposure that seemingly innocent dinosaur games can lead to if not monitored on the iPad. I didn't want to shut him down without understanding his point of view so we talked about how guns really serve no positive purpose (hello he is six!). He didn't seem convinced because according to his research, there are "predators" out there. I told him how survival skills allow animals to protect themselves from predators and the natural life cycle requires that they get their food by hunting. He understood but he was still not convinced. When my husband came down for his coffee and joined the conversation, my son used the term "handgun" to describe the best means of chasing small predators. It completely freaked my husband out and we launched into a full explanation of the power of guns and the danger they bring. How did he go from Dino Match and Dino Days to Dino Assassin so quickly? You’re thinking that obviously this mom should monitor the iPad more closely. I do! We are very aware of applications he uses and this gun issue was a recent three-day affair. His dad finally "lost it" when Rohan kept talking about guns and killing animals when he was trying to read them bedtime stories that night. He forbids him to use any applications with guns. Rohan is a huge rule follower. If we say no to something he won't even broach it. For crying out loud, he won't watch SpongeBob because it's for seven-year olds. Rohan went to bed in tears that night. We all understand now that he is not to play any games involving guns.
Ironically, we had a friend visit today with his ten-year old twin boys. They each have their own iPad (their mom won them with her Stella and Dot business!). According to Ethan, the filters that his dad installed with the application Mobicip, prevent him from using sites such as nike.com, microsoft.com or even apple.com. Ethan is an avid athlete so he is particularly frustrated that he cannot access Gamestop’s website or that of Dick’s sporting goods (I’m sure we can all guess why that one is blocked!) However, what he can access is Halo, a violent game for teenage boys. He can also access Call of Duty, which according to him is one of the most popular games out there. He told me that in order to access one of the blocked sites, it would take him about 10 minutes to hack into it. He is only ten! This generation is going to be wired so differently from the way we were raised.
Rohan now knows that gun games are off the table. We’ll revisit that when we have to…hopefully not for a long time. Just when I was heaving a sigh of relief, he informed me that he now he wants to play a game where he shoots an apple off someone's head with a bow and arrow (“it’s not a gun mom so it doesn’t fit in your rules!”) Since he’s never seen or heard of the Hunger Games, I can only assume there may be a history lesson involved in this newfound interest. When I asked about William Tell, he had no idea who I was talking about so there goes that theory! And so it goes on… Parenting is hard work!