Videos a force for good, says Disney

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The Independent Online
THE image of today's young people becoming isolated and unsociable as they sit glued to the television, videos and computer games is wrong, according to entertainment giant Disney.

New research, commissioned by the makers of children's video favourites Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas, reassures parents who may use videos as a "baby-sitting" device that they can actually benefit their children.

The report, published today, says the VCR could be taking the place of old-fashioned story tellers and end up making children more, not less, sociable.

About 96 per cent of children in the UK live in homes with videos and despite fears that films are just used by parents to keep children quiet, youngsters could be learning from the right sort of tapes, the report claims.

Disney, makers of nine of the 10 best-selling videos of all time, say that parents have more control over what their children watch on a video than they do over general television - and almost half of Britain's children have a television set in their rooms.

Dr John Richer, a clinical psychologist at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, carried out the study after a MORI poll showed that six in 10 children drew pictures of scenes and characters after watching a film.

Nearly three in four parents from the poll of 300 said their children played a game based on what they had just seen and more than nine out of 10 said theirs would remember the songs from the film.

Dr Richer said that all of these things were skills that children traditionally picked up from adults reading them stories and encouraging "active play".

He said: "If used appropriately, videos can encourage children's understanding of moral issues and social relationships.

"Video watching can reflect the role of the traditional storyteller who introduced children to folk tales, myths and legends of the community and repeat viewing can enhance children's interpretive skills as they are able to absorb themes and plots."

Helen Stratton of Disney Videos said: "We are delighted that this new research confirms what our young audience has been telling us for years."

But other academics who have carried out their own research into the field say that like anything in life, television and videos can be a force for good, but are also open to misuse.

Professor Barrie Gunter, social psychologist at the University of Wales, is author of a report which says that children who watch television for more than four hours a day are more prone to rebellion, drug-taking, crime and failure at school.

Dr Gunter said: "The research that we have done shows some consensus that children who become telly addicts are associated with a range of circumstances that one would call anti-social.

"I do accept that television and videos can be useful if the circumstances are right, but they can also be associated with more detrimental effects on youngsters."