Guns are something that children can easily see in video games, t.v. shows and movies, making it essential to teach children to respect guns as real objects and not just the items they may see in the media.
A group did a study of what eight children would do when they encountered a gun in a room where there were no adults. The gun was unloaded and presented no danger. Six of the children were from families in which guns were not talked about or allowed in the home, while the other two were from families that brought their children up on guns.
Within 15 seconds of being let into the room, the children found the gun and not long after, it was being passed around and pointed at the other children by the six who weren’t brought up on guns. The two who were introduced to guns stayed away from the gun and the other children, but never went to go get an adult.
The parents and the people conducting the experiment (Iowa news and Waterloo Police) were all astounded and frightened by the reactions of the children. Their encounters with guns through media create a curiosity that if not taught what to do with guns, they will check them out and use them in dangerous ways that put their lives and others at risk.
So how do we teach children to respect guns even if you don’t have them in the house? It requires talking to them about it, teaching them what to do, but even more importantly, you have to demystify guns. If you don’t want to keep a firearm in the house, consider taking them to a shooting range or to a class where they can learn about guns, hold them, and know what they do. It’s imperative to talk to children about guns to make sure they know what to do if they encounter a gun. It’s recommended to teach children these four steps:
1) STOP! Whatever they are doing, whether it is playing or walking by or hanging at a friend’s house, they need to stop
2) DON’T TOUCH IT! Again, no matter where they are, whose it is, what is happening, they should know not to touch it
3) LEAVE THE AREA! This is perhaps the most important because even though they aren’t going anywhere near it, there is nothing to say that no one else will go near it and mess with it. They need to make sure that they are safe by leaving
4) TELL A TRUSTED ADULT! This step is just as important as all they rest, because from there the adult can take action to make sure it isn’t around the children by letting authorities know that there is a weapon within children’s reach.
Beyond knowing how to handle a gun, they should understand the true violence of what they do. Video games and movies glorify and distort the impact of using a gun. Children need to know that guns, more often than not, lead to death and that death is a permanent thing. Unlike video games, the person who is shot won’t come back; they are permanently gone.
If we teach children to respect guns, fewer accidents are likely to happen. You’ll also be able to feel that your child is safe even if they do happen to come across a gun, and maybe if they do, they’ll have the courage to speak up, share their knowledge, and make sure others stay safe as well.
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