Child's play at war memorials: insights from a social media debate
Journal of Heritage Tourism
Each year, thousands of children visit memorials and other heritage sites during family or school trips, yet heritage scholars possess little understanding of their experiences. Despite its absence from the scholarly literature, children's exploratory play at war memorials recurs frequently in the popular media. Extensive social media interest suggests that public sentiment, often emotional and vividly expressed, deserves study as a potential influence on children's experiences at these and
... r dark heritage sites. This paper provides new insights of behavioral expectations for children at memorials, based on content analysis of 150 comments on a viral social media post picturing children playing on the Vietnam Women's Memorial in Washington DC. Conducting a stance analysis of comments, we considered commenters' behavioral expectations, meanings they ascribed to memorials, and rationales for their intensely worded positions. Commenters shared several values: that memorials represented soldiers' sacrifice, veterans' service, general places for respect or to do what is right, or artistic value. Yet despite these shared rationales, many commenters expressed polarized opinions of children's play at memorials. Commenters also referenced memorials and battlefields worldwide. This study provides greater understanding of the cultural context of children's visits to memorials and other sites of painful heritage.