Robin Brewton says she doesn't like the violent direction the toy industry is taking. "As we go down the isle, they seem to be focused more and more on weapons and less and less on play," she says as she shops for a toy for her 4-year-old son Landry. In fact, she's very concerned. She tries out a Buzz Lightyear doll packed with a gun. "Oh, so even Buzz Lightyear is getting into aggression and guns. I wasn't aware of that."
It's for parents like Robin that the group Lion & Lamb Project does research on violent childrens' toys. They've recently released their Dirty Dozen. It's the top 12 violent toys out this season. Like the NRG Paintball Gun. The Lion & Lamb Project says it encourages kids to shoot their friends, and the video game Time Splitters II, which has a lot of guns and a lot of violence. The Zoids Gun Sniper. It's a dinasour loaded with guns. "Gun sniper? Gun sniper? Very difficult to teach my 4-year-old the difference between a dinasour and a gun sniper, and why this may not be a great toy for him to have," says Robin.
"Violent video games and violent games in general can be a powerful influence in promoting aggression," says Dr. Gary Fireman, Director of the Texas Tech University Psychology Clinic. Dr. Fireman says many children can confuse fantasy with reality. "Even if the games are fantasy, and the child recognized that they are fantasy, they are still learning violence."
He says parents should buy toys that are consistent with their values. "Games that are open-ended, and allow the child to use their mind in a constructive, creative way are quite good," he says.
Robin says parenting is hard enough without violent toys. "These kinds of toys seem to teach them that aggression is okay. That if my problem won't go away I can just shoot it. Makes me feel like I have a big battle, a big battle coming."
To view this year's Dirty Dozen toy list ( click here ).