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Health & Parenting

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Kids Playing: Slingshots vs. Video Games

Is The Dangerous Book for Boys really that dangerous, or is it just what we need?

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.

And the new book doesn’t have to be for boys only, she says.

"If parents of females want to read this book and allow their female children to engage in these activities, go ahead if they show interest," she says, "Young boys, if given the opportunity, will be drawn to playing house and nurturing dolls, and this can teach them to be empathetic, caring, and nurturing," she says. Too often, "our society will take a doll out of a boy's hand and say 'play with this truck,'” she says. "The book may be gender-specific, but so what?"

"I think it’s tougher being a kid today and tougher parenting a kid today," says Vic Strasburger, MD, a professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque and the program chairman for the American Academy of Pediatrics' council on communications and the media.

In a way it's a double-edged sword, he says.

"The media are a lot more dangerous and a lot more helpful," he says. "The Internet has made a significant contribution to doing homework, but there are first-person shooter video games that are incredibly dangerous," he says. "These games are desensitizing, and they teach kids how to kill," he says, "Slingshots are bad enough -- you could shoot someone's eye out with a slingshot -- but guns teach kids to kill."

"It’s the best of times and the worst of times," Strasburger tells WebMD.

Questions of Safety

When asked if she believes this new book is dangerous, Rebecca Kiki Weingarten, MScEd, MFA, a psychotherapist and the co-founder/coach of Daily Life Consulting in New York City, says that "it all depends on what you mean by dangerous. In a way, children live in a more dangerous world all around today then they did in the past."

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