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Study reveals how to reduce the risk of kids playing with found firearm | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

Watching a one-minute video on gun safety can lower the risk that children will touch a found firearm. (Illustration: Victoria Ellis for Yahoo; Photo: Getty Images)

Watching a one-minute video on firearm safety can lower the risk that children will touch a gun that they find. That’s the major takeaway from a new JAMA Pediatrics study that put kids in a playroom setting and monitored their interaction with hidden, unloaded guns.

The study included 226 kids between the ages of 8 and 12 who were randomly sorted into two groups. One group saw a one-minute video on gun safety conducted by the police chief at Ohio State University; the other group saw a similar video on car safety.

With their parents’ consent, the children were invited to play a week after watching the video in a lab at Ohio State that was disguised as a playroom. The room had a range of toys and games to play with, along with an unlocked file cabinet that contained two disabled 9 millimeter handguns.

Nearly all of the children found the guns, and a disturbing 53% handled the gun. But there were differences in how children reacted to the guns, depending on which video that they saw.

Children who watched the gun safety video were three times more likely to tell an adult that they had found the firearms (34% compared to 11% in the car safety group). They also were less likely to touch them: Nearly 40% of children in the gun safety video group handled the guns, compared to 67% of those in the car safety group.

Why this study is important

Gun violence is the leading cause of death for children in the U.S., and cases have doubled over the past decade, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Children are now more likely to die from gun violence than they are in an automobile accident, KFF points out.

“We asked parents beforehand, What do you think your child will do when they find a gun? Most said my child definitely won’t touch it. They’ll immediately tell an adult — but that’s not what happened,” Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and a professor at Ohio State who studies the causes and consequences of human aggression and violence, tells Yahoo Life.

Bushman points out that, while it’s helpful the video was linked to a lowered risk that children would touch the guns, the results are still not ideal: “39.3% still touched it compared to 67% of the others. That’s a big difference, but you want that percentage to be zero,” he says. “Guns are not toys.”

Why was the video helpful?

The study didn’t analyze why the video helped some children avoid guns — it simply found an association. However, Bushman has some theories.

“We used an authority figure and our kids were 8- to 12 years old,” he says. “Research has shown that children of that age respect authority figures.” The police officer featured in the video was in full uniform and the video was shot in a professional studio, Bushman says.

“We also know that kids have pretty short attention spans — they may zone out with longer programs,” he says. Kids like to watch videos, too, so creating something that matched all of that criteria seemed to be a good choice, Bushman says. “We’re delighted to find that it was as effective as we had hoped,” he says.

Bushman points out that the National Rifle Association (NRA) also has a gun safety video, but it features a cartoon bird. “That may not be as impactful as a police officer in full uniform,” he says.

How parents can keep their kids safe around guns

Experts say the study highlights the need to talk to kids about guns. “Guns are one of those topics parents may be worried to discuss, with the thought, If we discuss it, will it make them more curious about guns?” Hillary Ammon, a clinical psychologist at the Center for Anxiety and Women’s Emotional Wellness, tells Yahoo Life. “While it’s understandable to have that concern, it’s typically not the case. Instead, it is better to discuss guns, address gun safety and let your children know they can come to you with questions or concerns about guns.”

But experts say that it’s crucial for gun owners to take precautions around the weapons. “At the end of the day, it’s always an adult’s responsibility to prevent unauthorized access to guns — not a curious child’s responsibility to avoid guns,” Dr. Annie Andrews, a pediatrician and senior adviser at Everytown for Gun Safety, tells Yahoo Life. “Teaching your kids about gun safety is an important precaution, but it’s critical to remember that it’s never a guarantee.”

Bushman says the study findings underscore the importance of storing weapons safely. “Children are naturally curious, and adults underestimate their ability to find hidden firearms,” he says.

Andrews agrees, saying that “the strongest research shows us that gun owners securely storing their guns saves lives, and that means firearms are stored unloaded, locked and separate from ammunition to prevent child access from happening in the first place.”

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