The Walking Dead, a TV horror drama popular among adults, is now marketing their show to kids with the introduction of The Walking Dead toys that can be found in big-box toy stores. Walk into your local toy store and you can find The Walking Dead dart guns, affectionately labeled “toy blasters” by the store. The age recommendation on these dart guns is six years and up, a far cry from the 14+ TV age rating for the television show. Children can now chase each other around, pretending to be zombie killers, attacking each other with foam bullets. In addition to the dart guns, The Walking Dead action figures and construction sets can also be purchased at the same toy stores. While your eight-year-old manipulates his action figures to kill all of the zombies in his pretend world, he can also learn to shoot them himself with his own personal dart gun.
An introduction to this show through these toys could very possibly lead to a child’s desire to watch the show and imitate it. This poses a challenge for parents of young children who are concerned about the affect this show may have on their kids. Due to the way children’s brains develop, their understanding of media content is different from that of adults. Young children have difficultly differentiating between what is pretend and what is real, challenging their understanding of the zombies and violence portrayed in The Walking Dead. Introducing a child to a show about a scary and complex concept that is in fact, fictional, can not only spark nightmares and fears within the child, but also confuse them about reality. Additionally, they may view the violence in a black and white perspective, killing the “bad guys” because they are bad, without understanding the causes or consequences of the violence.
In today’s society where senseless violence seems to be more prominent than ever, it is vital that we help our children to understand the consequences to violence and teach them peaceful alternatives. Introducing a violent TV show such as The Walking Dead through branded toys marketed to children who are far too young to understand the show’s meaning can be detrimental to their development and understanding of violence .