The War-Toy Debate Rages On

SOME countries and individual families have decided that war toys should not be allowed in their children's environment. Sweden, for example, has a voluntary agreement to eliminate the advertising and sale of toys depicting modern warfare, according to the book, ``Who's Calling the Shots.'' The agreement was reached by the National Board for Consumer Policies, the Swedish Council for Children's Play, and the toy trade organizations of Sweden. Finland made a similar agreement in 1986, which also agrees to refrain from importing war toys from other countries. Norway has a voluntary agreement on the matter as well.

``Anything that moves in the direction of limiting the overcommercialization of violence in this country is going to be a positive step,'' says Nancy Carlsson-Paige, coauthor of ``Who's Calling the Shots.'' But she is not optimistic that a real public dialogue will take place on the issue in the United States.

Malcolm Watson, associate professor of psychology at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., says that even though there is no hard evidence that war play increases aggressive behavior, allowing war play makes little sense.

Jack Lochhead, director of the Scientific Reasoning Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, recalls that his father was opposed to toy guns and did not buy them for his son. Dr. Lochhead labels his father's approach, ``totally ineffective.'' He says he ``was oblivious'' to his father's concerns when he was a child. ``I only learned later in life that he'd been trying to do that.''

Lochhead says that monitoring a child's play is probably a good idea, but he does not advocate banning certain toys. ``I think it would be much more effective,'' he says, ``to talk to the child about why you are concerned when he plays with guns.''

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