Media loves social experiments. It’s the driving theme for a lot of shows, from “Let’s Make a Deal,” to the thought provoking, “What Would You Do?”
Tonight (Friday, 1/31/14) on ABC’s 20/20, hosted by Diane Sawyer, an experiment is conducted in which young children are exposed to “gun safety” programs, then observed via hidden camera to see how they would react to discovering a real gun. Their goal is to dramatically reveal the often unrealistic parental expectations of their child around guns.
Here is the preview: http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/young-guns-diane-sawyer-special-21694484
I always try my best to take the findings from a television show with a heavy grain of salt. After all drama, and often sensationalism, is usually the name of the game. This program, however, is actually a replica of a study published in the respected medical journal Pediatrics back in 2001.
The background was a survey of 400 parents, who were asked if their child (age 4-12) could determine the difference between a toy and real gun, and how they would then behave with the guns. Three-fourths (74%) believed their child could tell the difference between a real gun and a toy. 74% also believed they would leave the gun alone, or tell an adult.
The experiment consisted of watching 2-3 children play for 15 minutes in a room where a real, unloaded gun was placed in one drawer, and toy guns in another (they were not told to look into the drawers). 75% of the kids found the real gun. Of these, 80% handled the gun, and 50% pulled the trigger. 90% of the kids who handled the gun, and 95% that had pulled the trigger, later revealed that they had received some sort of gun-safety training. It didn’t matter whether the child was from a gun-owning family, or whether the child had remarked earlier that he or she was ‘interested’ in guns.
Absolutely, I think it reasonable to consider the results from tonight as “made for TV;” however the results from this study are not. Please remember to teach your child: STOP! Don’t touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult.