If you can imagine the black-and-white photograph, it’s powerful. A line of children in Caracas, Venezuala all toting toy guns waiting to exchange them for non-violent toys.
The picture was published in the Globe and Mail recently.
The toy-guns-for-toys initiative is part of the Hugo Chavez government’s project to reduce violence in one of the most crime-ridden cities in Latin America.
Of course, we cannot make an apples-to-apples comparison between Caracas and Toronto or Venezuela and Canada. They are different cities and countries, with different socio-economic and cultural circumstances. As well, some critics of Mr. Chavez may question his human rights record.
But what this toy gun amnesty signals is that children play with toys that reflect their culture.
Dr. Marilyn Heins, a retired MD and parenting expert, speaks about the effect violent toys have on children. She recognizes that when children play with the tools of their culture they’re learning about the world around them. (Think: your kid’s fascination with your cell phone.)
Ultimately, experts say violent toys do not teach children to be violent.
Violent toys, however, do have an effect on kids when parents don't guide their children in shaping their attitudes.
It's impossible indeed to shield children from seeing violence which is so pervasive in the media or being exposed to violent toys or games in the school yard or shopping mall. But parents have a wide variety of non-violent toy choices for children that promote positive behaviour.