Graffiti highlights social dangers of playgrounds
Risks of fast food playlands aren’t always obvious
Erin Carr-Jordan, a developmental psychologist and University of Phoenix instructor in the College of Social Sciences, recently made national headlines for her crusade to clean up germ-ridden indoor fast-food playlands. But she stresses that there are other hidden dangers in these popular indoor playgrounds besides germs. Videos Carr-Jordan has taken of the inside of these facilities’ play equipment show a great deal of disturbing graffiti, including swear words and gang signs.
“For me, as a developmental psychologist, this graffiti is a potential danger to children who are just beginning to read,” Carr-Jordan explains. “I have seen and photographed graffiti in these playlands that includes profanity, obscene images and violent images. The children playing in these facilities are exposed to it at very young ages.”
A mother herself, Carr-Jordan is particularly alarmed by the obscene graffiti and gang signs that her own children saw while playing at a fast-food playland — the same sort of graffiti she has since seen and photographed at indoor playlands in multiple states across the country. “As a mom, as well as a psychologist, the biggest concern I have is desensitization,” she says. “When children see this sort of thing where they play, and moreover see other children — their peers — writing and drawing obscene things or gang signs, they begin to think it is acceptable behavior. They might start doing the same thing at school or at home. It becomes a problem for the children as well as their parents.”
The biggest concern I have is desensitization. When children see this sort of thing where they play ... they begin to think it is acceptable behavior.
The gang signs and related graffiti pose a particular danger to children, since it indicates that gangs and gang violence have invaded neighborhoods where it appears. “Children as young as 7 or 8 years old are now getting involved in street gangs,” Carr-Jordan says. “These gang signs in playgrounds are a potential gang recruitment tool, and also expose children to violence.”
Parents are often ill-equipped to deal with the behavior children exhibit after being exposed to violent or obscene images, especially if they are unaware their children have seen them while playing. “Most parents don’t know these images proliferate the insides of the indoor playland equipment in restaurants because the parents do not climb up inside it,” Carr-Jordan explains. “They can be taken by surprise when a child asks what a certain word or image they saw means. Parents certainly are not expecting to have a conversation about the F-word with their children after visiting an indoor playground.”
Carr-Jordan stresses that the fast-food industry needs to do more to keep its indoor playlands safe and clean for children, and that includes removing graffiti. “These facilities should be properly cleaned and inspected on a daily basis, and also should have spot checks throughout each day,” she says. “Any graffiti should be removed immediately. Playgrounds should be safe for children, not dangerous.”