I first learned of airsoft back at SHOT Show a couple of years ago, and I thought it was a bit goofy... grown men with plastic replicas of military weapons, having it out with one another, a la paintball. And I suppose you could do it that way.
Not us. My son has learned more about gun safety in the last month than I learned in a year. Seriously. He loves it because it looks cool, and it's full auto. You'd think the kid would be spraying pellets nonstop with a full auto M4, but without any coaching at all, he's very conservative with his shot placement. I think it's because I told him he was buying the next 5,000 rounds (15 to 20 bucks). Hell, with the price of ammo these days, why NOT shoot airsoft plastic pellets??
I'm amazed at how conscientious he is with gun safety... mostly because he knows that if he screws up, the gun gets put away (and it never has been, by the way). And even though airsoft can be dangerous, compared to a brass BB, it's slower traveling, and isn't packing the same amount of critter-killing joules that the BBs and pellets we grew up with. And I feel a lot safer shooting it in the backyard than something that spews ricocheting metal.