These family friends of ours have a grandson about 2 months younger than T Rex. He is a sweet little guy living between two parents. He lives predominantly with his mother who is fairly young and who works many hours per week. Thus, the television tends to be turned on a great deal at their house for his entertainment.
On Christmas, said little guy got to spend the day with his Dad and his family (our family friends). The Dad gave his little boy a toy machine gun as a gift. Upon opening the gift, the young child proceeded immediately to point the toy gun systematically at each person while making shooting noises as he pointed it at each person. Now, this might be considered fairly normal behavior if he were a little older (and perhaps also ill behaved, but that's a side issue). However, in a child barely 2 years old, the event was disconcerting. He didn't know better, but he knew what a machine gun did (and how it sounded!).
Fast forward week or so.
These family friends come over for a visit. They tell T Rex Dad and myself of this event and we agreed to run "the experiment". T Rex has never seen TV; he has only watched select Baby Einstein and Sesame Street DVDs. He has never even seen a TV commercial. And, on average, he only watches these shows three or four hours a week. Since he no longer needs asthma breathing treatments, his show watching time has declined significantly.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids should not watch any TV, including age appropriate shows, until the age of 2. This is because of a variety of factors, one of which is a predisposition to autism. However, following this was not possible for us. T Rex had to start taking breathing treatments at age 6 months and the only way to get him to sit still for the 30 minutes was to put on a Baby Einstein show. We tried other methods before trying shows, including holding T Rex down. For those of you who do not know, it is physically impossible to hold a mask on a child for 30 minutes when they do not wish you to. It was our pediatrician who recommended we try the DVD watching as a calming aid. I personally, do not have a problem with children watching age appropriate shows in moderation.
Thus, T Rex is the control in this experiment; no TV exposure. Therefore, the question: Is it innate knowledge for kids to know what to do with a gun (i.e. point and shoot) or is it learned behavior? The little guy in the beginning of this story had been exposed to many hours of TV and knew exactly what to do with the toy gun. What would T Rex, having never seen such things, do?
Disclaimer: This is not an anti-gun posting. If you know me personally, you know my opinions on guns and gun control. Rather this is a posting about age inappropriate television viewing by children.
T Rex Dad had a couple of toy squirt guns from his youth that he dug out. They were placed in the toy area where T Rex could find them. One was a AR-15 style machine gun (for those of you know know what this looks like) and the other a miniature sized MP-5 style (but pistol sized) gun. T Rex immediately saw them and went right for them. The pistol sized gun he turned upside down and drove around like it was a car along the counter making "vroom, vroom" noises. The 'sights' on this gun are rounded and look sort of like wheels. The AR-15 style "machine gun" he picked up and carried around shaking (it rattled a bit) to hear its rattling noise, for about 10 seconds, then dropped it as it was not very interesting to him. He then picked up a handful of foam letters to show off. And that was it. No pointing or shooting - nothing. Only shaking, rattling, and driving. He did not return to play with or touch the toy guns again all evening. Total play time with them was about 60 seconds.
Of course, this "experiment" lacks actual scientific validity because there are not the necessary numbers to make it statistically significant. However, I believe if it were repeated with a larger population base, findings would be similar. The question is, what does this mean for the future of these two kids? Will there be any difference in the way they turn out because one had early inappropriate TV exposure versus the one who did not? Who knows, but I'd rather have T Rex playing such games when he's a bit older. Two years old just seems so young to have such knowledge.
What do you think?