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Parents: Check New List of "Good" and "Bad" Holiday Toys

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WebMD Health News

Dec. 4, 2000 (Washington) -- With this being the holiday season of "peace on earth", a grassroots group is warning that parents shouldn't purchase toys that glorify violence.

Bone Crunchin' Buddies and the Wolverine Battlin' Bop Bags top the annual "dirty dozen" list of violent toys released Monday by the Lion & Lamb Project.

According to Daphne White, executive director of the project, "These toys -- which cross-market violent, adult-rated products to children -- make it clear that industry's main concern is little more than their own bottom line."

Jakks Pacific's "bone crunchin'" dolls, for example, represent wrestling figures and permit children to twist their arms and legs. But the manufacturer recommends it for kids 3 and up. And the four-foot tall inflatable Wolverine bop bags, put out by Toy Biz and based on a PG-13 movie, tell kids to "hit me in the gut again" when struck. It's officially aimed at children 5 and older.

White, who said that toys are getting increasingly violent, compared her effort to struggles that began decades ago to restrict smoking and crack down on drunken driving.

Psychologist Karen Shanor, PhD, tells WebMD that toys are crucial in shaping kids and that violent toys are unhealthy. "Children learn through play," she says. "How a child spends his or her time is very important. Toys are ways that kids learn about the world and practice being a part of the world." Shanor has written a book, The Emerging Mind, that discusses the psychological development of children.

In July, the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry stated, "Children exposed to violent programming at a young age have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life than children who are not so exposed."

But in a statement, the Toy Manufacturers Association of America said, "The accusation that individual toys promote violence does not stand up to academic scrutiny." The association quotes Jeffrey Goldstein, a media professor at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, who claims, "There are no 'violent' or 'nonviolent' toys. There are simply toys. ... They give form to behavior by stimulating play, but they do not motivate aggressive behavior. ... How a parent behaves toward a child has much more influence than a toy."

This past September, Congress held hearings on youth exposure to violence in video games and other media, in the wake of a Federal Trade Commission report that criticized the routine marketing of violent video games to young children. The FTC stopped short of calling for legislation.

Earlier in the year, the toy manufacturers group said it would work on voluntary industry guidelines on violent toys but hasn't further committed.

"Toys are becoming more realistically violent," Shanor tells WebMD. "Parents are going to have to vote with their pocketbooks." What are some good tips? She says the simpler, the better. Toys need not have batteries, and parents shouldn't feel pressure to get computers early, Shanor says. She recommends puzzles, building blocks, puppets, and items that promote nature and music.

The project also released a list of 20 recommended toys, which include a "Radio DJ" system that allows children to create their own talk shows, a boomerang, and the trivia board game "Cranium".

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