"The War Play Dilemma: What Every Parent And Teacher Needs to Know" by Diane E. Levin (Author), Nancy Carlsson-Paige
http://www.amazon.com/War-Play-Dilemma-Childhood-Education/dp/080774638X From the editorial review:
As violence in the media and media-linked toys increases, parents and teachers are also seeing an increase in children's war play. The authors have revised this popular text to provide more practical guidance for working with children to promote creative play, and for positively influencing the lessons about violence children are learning. Using a developmental and sociopolitical viewpoint, the authors examine five possible strategies for resolving the war play dilemma and show which best satisfy both points of view: banning war play; taking a laissez-faire approach; allowing war play with specified limits; actively facilitating war play; and limiting war play while providing alternative ways to work on the issues. New for the Second Edition: * More anecdotal material about adults' and children's experiences with war play, including examples from both home and school settings. * Greater emphasis on the impact of media and commercialization on children's war play, including recent trends in media, programming, marketing, and war toys. * Expanded discussion about the importance of the distinction between imitative and creative war play. * Summary boxes of key points directed at teachers or parents. * New information about violent video games, media cross feeding, and gender development and sex-role stereotyping. * A more extensive list of resources and further reading for adults and children. Here is a short pdf article by one of the authors on some of these themes: "Beyond Banning War and Superhero Play"
http://www.lionlamb.org/young%20children-war%20play.pdf A few key ideas from the book:
The deregulation of children's media during the early 1980s (Reagan administration) led to an alliance of media companies and toy companies and other companies (like food companies); the result of this is an immersion for many children in an interlinked experience of seeing media about violence, purchasing related action figures and toys and video games, and having these items promoted every place they go (whether to buy fast-food or just in other kid's homes). This is a big change from the media environment from the 1960s and 1970s that many of today's parents grew up in. The authors point out that the behaviors promoted by this alliance tend to be very sex-role stereotypical, as in boys need to be fighters and girls need to be princesses. For many children, the authors suggest they can get locked into a pattern of endless cycling through stereotyped behaviors. While it is true that knights and princesses have long been important parts of many children's play (so this is not intended to dismiss that), what has changed for some children is the tone and extremeness of those experience because of the high degree of continual interrelated media/toy/game/food saturation. Rather than children being able to express themselves building on those knight/princess themes in their own unique ways, because of the integrated marketing, for many children there becomes only one way to be a knight or a princess (as defined by some media and accompanying purchased toys to be used in only very precise and narrow ways). The book focuses mainly on the boy part of this equation. One of the authors has writings on the female stereotyping aspect of media and other issues, described here: http://www.dianeelevin.com/writing.html
The "dilemma" is about a fundamental conflict parents face when dealing with war play. On the one hand, most parents want children to grow and develop by working through developmental issues (like learning to deal with conflict, learning self-control, and learning respect for themselves and others through play, including play...