Kids Playing: Slingshots vs. Video Games
Is The Dangerous Book for Boys really that dangerous, or is it just what we need?
Does your mental picture of kids playing conjure paper airplanes, tree
houses, and slingshots -- not video games, DVDs, and other high-tech
You're not alone. The nostalgia in part inspired and in part propelled
The Dangerous Book for Boys. Written by British brothers Conn and Hal
Iggulden, the book is a manifesto of everything and anything that boys liked
and apparently still like to do -- from building go-carts, tree houses,
and fortresses to playing stickball and poker. Its front-of-book essential gear
list includes a switchblade, a box of matches, and fish hooks.
But the new compendium is not without its critics. Some say The Dangerous
Book for Boys is, well, dangerous -- and promotes activities with
questionable health and safety implications (see essential gear list above).
Others chastise its gender-specific premise that boys should be boys and girls
should be girls.
This is obviously not how the brothers Iggulden see it.
Kids Playing Video Games vs. Kids Playing Stickball
"The boys of today get a raw deal," contends Conn Iggulden.
"Yes, they have incredible computers, but the trade-off is that they are
rarely allowed to test themselves outside. They are overprotected by
litigation-fearing institutions. And of course, they are subjected to
noncompetitive sports days, coursework, oral schoolwork," he gripes.
Slingshots aren't dangerous, video games are, he says.
"Video games are dangerous in the sense that they make boys into passive
consumers instead of allowing them to develop their imagination," he says.
"Give me a day playing war rather than a PC war game any day!"
"My father’s generation thought nothing of ... going off for the day
unsupervised to swim and climb, build camps, ride bikes, and everything else
that kept them fit and strong," he says. "Spending six hours a day with
a PlayStation just gives you a sore thumb."
It's not that computers are intrinsically evil, he says. "The problem is
when it is used as a babysitter/pacifier at the expense of raising boys to be
the sort of men we want in society."
Columbus, Ohio-based parenting expert Brenda Nixon, MA, author of
Parenting Power in the Early Years, agrees. "Slingshots and other
activities mentioned in this book are probably less dangerous than video games
as far as development, because they foster social skills, language development,
and motor function, which solitary video games do not," she tells
Keeping an Eye on the Kids
Another plus of this old-fashioned type of play is that parents will likely
keep a watchful eye on kids playing if they are setting up camp in a tree
house or playing war games, she says.
"It's too easy to let a child play with a computer game or a CD-ROM as
your electronic babysitter, while building a fort or learning how to tie knots,
build tents, and play with a slingshot usually involves supervision and
parental involvement," she says.