June 18, 2004
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Forward Command Post

The J.C. Penney catalog advertises a Forward Command Post, where children can "take command" of their soldiers from a "fully outfitted battle zone." (ABCNEWS.com)
New Terror Toys
Is Marketing War to Young Kids
Harmful or Beneficial?

By Dan Harris
ABCNEWS.com

Dec. 3 — "Army Forward Command Post," a new toy out this holiday season, has been dubbed by one toy expert as "Barbie's Dream House: The Nightmare Version."



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It is a bullet-riddled shell of a house, complete with a soldier in military combat gear, weapons, ammunition and even sandbags.

There are two versions of "Forward Command Post": one for children 5 years old and older; the other for children 3 and older.

"I just wouldn't buy it. It's scary," one mother said when ABCNEWS showed the toy to some parents shopping with their children in New York City.

"I mean I know our world has changed, but I hope not that much," said another mother.

The Lion & Lamb Project, a Bethesda, Md.-based group that discourages violent toys and games for kids, put "Forward Command Post" on its annual "Dirty Dozen" list of violent "toys to avoid."

Other war-related toys on the market this holiday include a replica of an actual U.S. Army long-range sniper; a camouflage "Ride-On Tank" complete with flashing lights, machine-gun noises and firing sounds; a "Bazooka and Walkie-Talkie Set," a "Ted from Tora Bora" action figure and a toy head of Osama bin Laden.

"Play is a child's work," said Daphne White, founder and executive director of the Lion & Lamb Project. "Children learn through play … So actually giving them violent toys predisposes them and … teaches them that to behave violently is fun and acceptable."

Way to Confront Their Fears?

The maker of Forward Command Post, a company called Ever Sparkle Industrial Toys, says its product is no more violent than the G.I. Joe toys, which have been around for years.

And, in fact, some experts say playing with war-themed toys can be healthy for kids.

Gerard Jones, author of the book Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence, says such play can be a way for children to confront and conquer their fears.

"What's hard for us, for adults, to understand is that things that things make us nervous, that create some anxiety in us because they remind us of real-world violence, are often the very things that kids need to play through," said Jones.

But even Jones admits that Forward Command Post — described on the J.C. Penney Web site as a "fully outfitted battle zone" — is probably not right for a 5-year-old.  

 
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