Copyright 2002

[ January 11th 2002 ]

Children are more frightened of the dark than their parents were because increasing exposure to artificial light means they rarely experience total blackness, according to a study commissioned by Powergen. Nearly two thirds of children aged under 10 insist on sleeping with a light on, compared with half of their parents’ generation at the same age, the study says.

Aric Sigman, a psychologist and author who analysed the findings, said electric lights, television and computer games could have deeply negative effects on an entire generation of children because it was stifling their imagination. Doctor Sigman said: "Children’s imaginations need to be given space to develop. Being in the dark gives them a blank canvas on which to paint their own imaginary pictures. It can be very stimulating for them to play and entertain themselves in the dark, because all the images they produce will be unique, but this rarely happens now."

The research also indicated that the nature of children’s fear of the dark is changing as the traditional imaginary monster under the bed is replaced by ready-made images imprinted on children’s minds from television, cimeman and computer games. The scariest monsters cited by children included Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter film, Saruman from The Fellowship of the Ring, and Powell from the computer game Tomb Raider.

Dr Sigman said the solution was to allow children to play more in the dark and to encourage them to read more, and watch television and play computer games less. "It sounds like old fashioned advice to say read more and watch television less, but it needs repeating," he said.

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