Should I let my kid play paintball?

Although paintball has largely become accepted as a safe and enjoyable pastime, there are still those who feel uneasy about the prospect of allowing their children to engage in what, on the surface at least, appears to endorse and possibly even glorify, war and violence. This reaction is certainly understandable, but after twenty years of owning and operating a paintball business, we are convinced that the image does not reflect the reality of the game. In fact, as parents ourselves, we are confident in our endorsement of the game as a fun and even beneficial experience for all ages.  

 Numerous studies have clearly shown that people who play war games or participate in other mock violence genres are not going to suddenly (or even gradually) turn into antisocial monsters because of the experience. However, that doesn’t mean that people with anti-social tendencies don’t also play these games. They do! Just as they also drive cars, go to restaurants, read books and engage in all of the other things that people in a complex society participate in. Anti-social behavior is largely driven by complex societal pressures, and as our socio-economic systems continue to struggle it is likely that these incidents will continue to occur.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers for solving these problems.It is the natural instinct of all parents to try and protect their children from acts of violence., but in an information age where kids are bombarded with media images of real world brutality and horror on an almost daily basis, that has become an impossible task. Statistically, there is actually less violence today than there was in the past. But it doesn't feel like that is true. The biggest difference is that today we are confronted with all of the worst news of the world; all day; every day, whereas in the past we were more likely to be blissfully ignorant of most of these events.

 Today’s children cannot so easily hide from the knowledge that they are surrounded by a violent world, and as much as we would like to, we cannot shield our children from this knowledge. This is the dark side of the 24hr. news channels, internet access and global communications technology.   The best we can do is to try to help them deal with it, and that is where playing paintball can help.

Play acting has long been an effective means of helping us to deal with the things that frighten us. It is natural for children to worry about what would happen to them if they were confronted by violence - being worried teaches us to be cautious, especially in unfamiliar circumstances. But what happens to our sense of security when that violence is occurring in otherwise familiar places such as our schools and shopping malls. These places are familiar to all of us, and if a shooting or other violent act occurs in any one of them, it is easy to imagine it happening in our own neighborhood, even if the likelihood is statistically remote.

We cannot be with our children all the time, and we cannot keep them from imagining what would happen to them if they were confronted by violence. Kids are smart enough to realize that the victims of violent crimes were not protected by their parents, or anyone else.

This can be a traumatizing revelation. Playing paintball allows them to confront their fears on a personal basis.

From a psychological perspective, they are not out to “shoot someone”, rather, they are out there to see if they can defend themselves in a pseudo dangerous environment. That is why it is called a survival game! Rather than relying on you, their parent, to protect them, they learn that they can survive in a stressful, but safe environment, dodging paintballs and confronting attackers. Would the experience help them to survive a real, unprovoked attack? Probably not (and statistically, neither would carrying a real gun in their pocket). But it may help them deal with their fears, and allow them to tuck those thoughts away in the back of their mind instead of being haunted by them on a daily basis.   

 Perhaps that is one of the reasons why paintball has become so popular. Rather than promoting violence, playing paintball is often a means of dealing with, and relieving social stresses, even if most people are unaware that this is part of the experience.

If you are interested in learning more about the possible causes of extreme aggression in some individuals, and why some people may turn into dangerous sociopaths, we highly recommend a series of lectures on the latest research in environmental biology as presented by Dr. Robert Sapolsky and Stanford University. You can access the most relevant lectures on YouTube here: Robert Sapolsky - Aggression II" and here: Robert Sapolsky - Aggression III"or, even better, you can watch the entire series of twenty five lectures by searching through the YouTube links.  

There are also many real time health benefits to playing paintball that are often overlooked. Aside from perhaps the obvious ones of fresh air and sunshine, playing also requires teamwork, social interaction, mental and physical exercise (lots of the latter) and, regardless of win or lose (and despite the bruises), almost everyone generally goes home feeling great!   Perhaps, one day, we will be able to change the world, but for the moment we will have to be able to deal with it the way it is, rather than the way we wish it was.

At Safari Ridge Adventure Paintball we strive to make everyone’s visit an enjoyable, and healthy experience. The battlefield images of the world at war that we have constructed are the movie backdrops; the players are the actors. With the proper Parental guidance your child’s experience can be educational, as well as exciting.

So bring your kids, and your friends, and let us take you on an unforgettable personal adventure! You’ll have fun, and perhaps learn something about yourself, but it won’t change who you are! 

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