On boys, video games, and violence: A teacher’s perspective

boys playing shooter video game
image: HowStuffWorks.com

An article by Christina Hoff Sommers in TIME may be of interest to parents of boys – click here to read it.

Even if you are not in favor of single gender education, you probably are concerned that coed schools seem to find that normal boy behavior creates problems. I myself might be concerned if a boy nibbled his pastry into the shape of a gun if my own 4 year-old son had not used a sharp stone to fashion a gun from a piece of wood he found in the forest. I don’t know why boys are fascinated by guns, but they are. Having a gun as a toy at age 4 doesn’t seem to mean they become serial killers at 24 any more than crashing toy cars together at the same age means they will become demolition derby competitors later.

The problem is that adults don’t realize that children don’t think of things in the same way that adults do. After all, a 5 year-old child usually cannot reverse order items.  To check if your child can do this, select three differently colored objects and a tube (like the tube in the middle of paper towels). Describe the objects as you drop them into the tube. “See, first goes the yellow block, then the red ball, and finally the blue car.” Then ask your child which object should come out at the bottom first. He should know that it is the yellow object followed by the red and the blue. Now do the same thing, but hold the ends closed with your hands and turn the tube upside down. Ask your child again which object should come out first. A child with the ability to reverse order will say the blue car followed by the red ball and the yellow block. The child who is younger will continue to think that the yellow block comes out first. By the way, if your child does not get the reversal of the objects, don’t try to teach him differently, he will learn that skill as he develops.

Children who are younger than three think that what happens on the TV is real and that there are tiny people inside the TV. They don’t realize that just because they can see something under a table for example, that taller people might not be able to see the object. Children do not see guns as objects of mass destruction, but as an interesting toy that makes a great noise. We need to teach boys that guns can be dangerous, but if you prevent boys from playing with guns, they will simply become more fascinated by them.

Sommers’ article points out that frequently teachers prevent boys from inventive play because they don’t see that form of play as appropriate. The result is that boys find school boring and are uninterested in the passive play that teachers approve. If boys are going to like going to school, they need to have teachers who appreciate the active nature of boys and who know how to use their active curiosity to spark an interest in learning.