CNN transcript
Saturday Morning News

               New Studies Show that TV News Violence Frightens

                  Aired August 22, 1998 - 8:23 a.m. ET

                  FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

                  MARINA KOLBE, CNN ANCHOR: Entertainment shows on television
                  have been criticized for decades as being too violent for children, but what
                  about violence on television news shows, and their affect on kids?

                  BOBBIE BATTISTA, CNN ANCHOR: Two new university studies show
                  the effect is often frightening, with 51 percent of children in one study saying
                  that they can recall being scared by TV news footage.

                  Joining us now to talk about this and the effects on children is Kevin Dwyer
                  of the National Association of School Psychologists.

                  Good morning and welcome to you.

                  Good morning.

                  BATTISTA: What exactly was the basis of these studies or the outcome
                  here, the final conclusion?

                  DWYER: Well, the outcome is that many children are shocked and
                  frightened by some of the things they see on news on television. You know,
                  television news sometimes -- the saying goes, you know, "If it bleeds, it
                  leads." And I think those kinds of television, shocking television, affect
                  children, particularly, very young children; children who are -- who can't
                  discriminate between that happening in a news show versus that happening
                  on their own street or in their own community. KOLBE: But, how much are
                  young children actually watching television news. I have a six-year-old and
                  the last thing she's watching is television news. She's watching cartoons.

                  DWYER: If the news is on at dinner time and the family is sitting around
                  watching the news, then they're going to be watching it. And I think that if
                  that happens, I think it's important for parents to think through whether or
                  not they should flip it off and, in fact, maybe avoid having news on if they
                  believe that the news will show a lot of violence; particularly, violence against

                  BATTISTA: So, it could just have a kind of peripheral effect. Even if it's on
                  in the room when the children are playing in there.

                  DWYER: Oh absolutely. We're not aware -- children are learning all the
                  time, and if you think -- just think of the television set as a teacher in the
                  house, and the teacher is teaching your children something, and, you know,
                  you have to monitor what that teacher is saying to your children.

                  KOLBE: So, what age is it a good idea for children to watch television?
                  Because, like you say, they can learn. They can learn that, when they see a
                  child that's fallen into a swimming pool because they didn't listen to their
                  grandmother, that you should listen to your grandmother, because or else
                  you will drown; that there are consequences to our actions; that you should
                  stay away from strangers. So, television news can sometimes give some
                  benefits to the children.

                  DWYER: Oh, absolutely. And I think that here is the way you really need to
                  -- parents really need to think about dialoguing with their kids when
                  something does, you know, when they do see something that can be a
                  lesson, and to follow it up with how they, in that family, make sure that that
                  doesn't happen.

                  Kids need to be assured that they're safe. They need to be -- even children
                  at 10 or 11, 12 years old, but very young children, we need to be careful
                  that we don't expose them to things that are frightening, because it does have
                  a long-term impact for some children.

                  BATTISTA: I was just going to ask you what the effect was exactly on
                  young children? What should parents be watching for?

                  DWYER: What can happen is that some children may have nightmares.
                  They may show fear toward different people. They may show fear in
                  different places, because those places are similar to the places they saw on

                  They may be, you know, the shootings in schools -- when the children see
                  kids coming out of school who are bleeding and wounded, they can become
                  afraid to go to school, and even get what we call "phobic" to have a
                  long-term effect on them.

                  KOLBE: But how much is fear just a natural instinct, because sometimes,
                  you know, just babies seem to be having nightmares?

                  DWYER: Oh, of course. I mean, there are -- but, I think that when you talk
                  to your children, I mean -- we do know that very small infants may have
                  nightmares. It's interesting, though, that lots of times, if you get to the roots of
                  some of those anxieties that kids express, you'll find out that sometimes it is
                  something that they observed in their environment.

                  Even some of the children's shows themselves, with monsters and things that
                  are even kind of humorous sometimes have a negative effect on very young
                  children. Particularly, children, you know, if you think of children, preschool
                  children in particular, we ought to really -- cartoons are not appropriate for
                  many of those children, and we ought to think through, "What is that cartoon
                  really saying to my child?" And, you know, if you get into that kind of thing
                  about news, "What is the news saying to my child, my three-year-old, my
                  five-year- old."

                  BATTISTA: So if you ignore this, what might be the long-term effect?

                  DWYER: Well, as I was saying, sometimes the long-term effect, and it's not
                  typical, it doesn't happen a lot, but sometimes the long- term effect can be
                  some phobic fears; fears that last for a long period of time, and that are very
                  difficult to understand where they came from. And, you know, the
                  four-year-old who comes up to me and says -- walks up to me in a room
                  and says, you know, "Are there any monsters in this room?" And, you
                  know, that means that somehow or other they've seen something that made
                  them afraid.

                  Now, luckily, they can share that with me, but the point is, then we can go
                  through it and share something about it. And this is what parents can do.
                  They can talk to their kids about things. For example, when there is violence
                  on television that they see, they can assure them that they're safe. When they
                  see violence -- fantasy violence, they can make sure that the children know
                  that that is fantasy violence, that that really isn't fun, that that really does
                  cause people to die, and that we don't want to see that. You know, we don't
                  like that kind of thing. We try to avoid watching those kinds of shows.

                  It's very important for parents to monitor what their kids do see on
                  television. Keep thinking that our kids learn from what they see. They learn.
                  They learn a lot incidentally, and we need to be absolutely sure that, you
                  know, we know what they're learning. We don't want them to be learning
                  things that are inappropriate.

                  KOLBE: Kevin Dwyer, thank you so very much for sharing your insights this
                  Saturday morning.

                  DWYER: Thank you.

                  KOLBE: So the lesson, Bobbie, important to actually watch television with
                  your kids to explain to them, and do your job as a parent.

                  BATTISTA: Like anything else on television when they're young.

                  KOLBE: Absolutely.

 from U.S. News-- News You Can Use
Toys that think
                          But will you ever let your kids have a turn with them?

                          BY RICHARD FOLKERS

                          Anthony Fudd loves his Legos. Among the Somerville,
                          Mass., student's oddball creations is a robot, which sits
                          inside a refrigerator and confirms that the light really
                          does go out when the door shuts. Another machine
                          deals poker cards (though from the bottom of the deck)
                          to four players. Fudd constructed a Lego copy machine,
                          including a light sensor that detects writing, and a felt-tip
                          marker that duplicates it. Fudd would be considered
                          quite a prodigy--if he weren't 27 and a student at the
                          prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

                          Clearly, Legos aren't just for kids anymore. Though he
                          enjoys doing it, Fudd gets paid by Lego to build its new
                          $200 high-tech toy called the MindStorms Robotics
                          Invention System. The 727-piece Lego kit lets users (age
                          12 and up, says the Danish company) make robots.
                          Along with the familiar Lego blocks, the set contains
                          gears, wheels, axles, drive belts, and other parts needed
                          to complete moving creations.

                          The MindStorms set, which went on sale in September
                          in toy and electronics stores, is part of a trend toward
                          toys that think, says Chris Byrne, editor of Playthings
                          MarketWatch, a toy industry newsletter. "As the price of
                          technology drops, it's showing up in toys," he says.
                          "Kids expect their toys to beep and talk back to them
                          and have an attitude." Other "smart" toys to watch for,
                          says Byrne, include the Furby from Hasbro's Tiger
                          Electronics (story, Page 73) and Amazing Amy ($70
                          from Playmates Toys), an interactive, talking baby doll.

                          High-tech Legos aren't totally new. They were available
                          in product lines sold principally to educators for up to
                          $700. Those sets and the new mass-market MindStorms
                          spring from a collaboration between Lego and the MIT
                          Media Lab. There, Fred Martin, an MIT research
                          scientist, helped develop much of the microprocessor
                          technology ultimately used in MindStorms sets. He got
                          involved because he thinks that good toys should lead
                          kids to constructive play. Lego, he says, is "a toy for
                          making other toys. It puts kids in the driver's seat."

                          Technological toys can also keep adults interested.
                          Some, in fact, use Legos in their work. Rick Lazzarini, a
                          creator of animatronic creatures for films (like the horror
                          movie Mimic) and commercials (such as the Budweiser
                          frog ads), works out creature concepts with them.

                          Since late July, Fudd has crisscrossed the United
                          States, demonstrating the possibilities of the new set to
                          school children and adults. Fudd has built his creations
                          at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry and at
                          research labs and universities. In Las Vegas, his
                          card-dealing robot took an impromptu, and uninvited, turn
                          on a casino gaming table, much to the pit boss's
                          chagrin. In Cawker City, Kan., another of Fudd's robots
                          added a strand to what is purported to be the world's
                          largest ball (at more than 17,000 pounds) of pure sisal
                          twine. The little Lego vehicle held a spool of twine and
                          did a lap around the ball.

                          What makes the MindStorms system work is its brain,
                          the RCX (the name doesn't stand for anything). It's a
                          microprocessor about the size of two decks of playing
                          cards that is usually built into a robot's body. The RCX
                          sends electronic orders to up to three motors (a set
                          comes with two), and to sensors that respond to light or
                          touch. The RCX uses programming instructions sent by
                          a personal computer to its infrared receiver. (An infrared
                          transmitter, which connects to a computer's serial port,
                          is included in the set.)

                          Iconic. Software, also included, but for Windows 95
                          only, lets you create custom instruction programs and
                          send them to your robot's RCX. You simply assemble a
                          string of icons that represent commands, such as left
                          and right turns, reverse, sound effects, pauses, sensor
                          settings, motor speed, or custom-designed functions.
                          Drag the icons together into a row and send the
                          sequence off to the toy. Touch a button labeled "run" on
                          the RCX, and your creation goes to work. One of the
                          simplest programs causes a vehicle to move forward
                          when it's hit by a flashlight beam and stops it when the
                          light goes out.

                          Of course, you're not going to be a master builder from
                          the start, but in an hour or two you can be making
                          machines that appear to think. The instruction book lays
                          out step-by-step plans for seven robots. One of the most
                          interesting is the Torbot, a vehicle that moves around on
                          bulldozerlike treads. On its front are two prongs,
                          connected to touch sensors to make feelers. If the
                          Torbot reaches the edge of a table, a feeler senses it,
                          the robot reverses course, away from the precipice. It's
                          really a brainy wind-up toy, but you are the engineer.

                          Point and shoot. If robotic basics get boring or you just
                          don't have an inventor's mind, there's a Web site (
                 full of ideas. You can sample
                          from a rotating group of missions, like the Photobot, a
                          robot that carries and snaps a point-and-shoot camera
                          (you provide the camera). Each MindStorms buyer also
                          gets a page on the site, a spot to post robot designs and
                          pictures. There are also three expansion sets ($50
                          each), called Extreme Creatures, Robo-Sports, and
                          Exploration Mars.

                          Fudd's most impressive creation (made with parts from
                          several MindStorms sets) is a mechanical arm that
                          mimics the movements of a human arm. Fudd wears
                          sensors in his hand, wrist, and elbow, which send
                          commands to the foot-long arm. It has a wrist that
                          pivots, an elbow that bends, and pincers made of rubber
                          tires. The ultimate Fudd Lego creation, though still only
                          a concept, is a 3-foot-tall machine that walks.

                          After wrapping up the 8,500-mile promotional tour last
                          week, Fudd returned to the grind of MIT, several weeks
                          late for the start of his senior year, as a visual design
                          and mechanical engineering major. He hit campus,
                          knowing that someone will ask, and not for the first time,
                          whether all that expensive education has been
                          squandered on toys.

                          Invariably, he says, the questioner will steal a glance at
                          one of the robots and then gush, "But that's so cool."

                          Your kids will speak Furbish
U.S. News-- News You Can Use

                          And you thought those Tickle Me Elmo or Barney dolls
                          were irritating

                          BY RICHARD FOLKERS

                          Take a stuffed animal, give it looks like a movie gremlin,
                          and blend in a virtual pet that speaks its own language
                          and laughs like David Letterman. You've got a Furby, a
                          new toy that's a lock to enthrall kids and sure to annoy
                          their parents.

                          The new $30 animated plush toy from Hasbro's Tiger
                          Electronics wiggles its ears, closes its eyes, moves its
                          beak, and dances. You can tickle its tummy, pet its
                          back, feed it, sing it to sleep, and scare it with loud
                          noises. It will laugh, purr, sneeze, burp, or make other
                          rude noises. And, it talks.

                          When you first put in the four AA batteries
                          (unfortunately, there is no on-off switch on the creature),
                          Furby says its name, and begins to speak a made-up
                          language called Furbish. Thanks to a dictionary, you'll
                          know that "may-may" is "love," and "Dah/doo-ay/doo?"
                          means "Big fun?"

                          Over a matter of days, the Furby will begin to speak
                          English words; it will eventually split its
                          200-word-and-sound vocabulary between the two
                          languages. It's not actually learning, but responding to
                          stimuli in programmed ways.

                          One Furby will "communicate" with another (through the
                          infrared port), appearing to teach it songs, laughing
                          infectiously, or even passing on its cold. Furbys can also
                          have group conversations, a feature that could prompt
                          serial purchases. (There will be six fur-color
                          combinations and three eye colors.)

                          Furbys are little marvels of technology. They are
                          controlled by a microprocessor, which juggles signals
                          from six sensors. There are touch pads on the front (for
                          tickling) and rear (for petting), a tilt sensor, a light sensor
                          (it goes to sleep in the dark), a microphone, and the
                          infrared port. Each sensor has a "priority status," so a
                          Furby being tickled while held upside down will choose
                          fear over laughter. Tiger says each Furby will have a
                          unique "personality."

                          No deaths, yet. Furbys will also respond to commands
                          in the form of claps, play "Furby says," and dance to
                          music. (The small instruction book is skimpy in useful
                          instructions.) Parents of the younger set (ages 6 and up
                          are recommended) will be glad to hear that, unlike many
                          virtual pets, Furbys don't die. If unattended for several
                          days, a Furby will grow groggy and cranky, refusing to
                          respond until you pretend to feed it. Furbys retain their
                          memories while you change the batteries.

                          One cautionary note: Kids will bond with Furbys. The
                          8-year-old toy tester for this story had trouble letting go.
                          "Dad, I know you have to send it back [lip begins to
                          quiver], and I know it's just a toy," she said, "but,
                          [sniffle] it told me [sob] that it loved me [sob, sob,
                          sob]." Furby will roll out nationally over the month of

                News You Can Use 4/6/98--

                ON HEALTH
                BY NANCY SHUTE
                Go out and play

                I hated PE. It was bad enough in grade school,
                when I had to hide behind the most popular girl to
                avoid getting my glasses smashed in dodge ball.
                Junior high was worse: gym suits with bloomers,
                group showers, teachers who looked like Mike
                Ditka yelling, "You throw like a girl!" By high
                school, I was scheming to avoid first-period gym; it
                ruined your hair for the day. It wasn't until years
                later that I discovered that breaking a sweat could
                be a pleasure, not a penance. And now here I am,
                advocating the return of gym class.

                That's because these days many American children
                don't get much after-school exercise beyond
                pushing channel-change buttons on the television
                remote. Rather than splashing in the swimming
                pool all summer, kids are surfing the Internet. That
                life of leisure, delightful though it may be, is setting
                up our children to become fat, sickly adults.

                Boys and girls who watch four or more hours of TV
                a day are significantly fatter than children who
                watch two hours a day or less, researchers at
                Johns Hopkins University reported last week in the
                Journal of the American Medical Association.
                Twenty-six percent of American children watch the
                tube more than four hours a day. For black children
                it's 43 percent; for Mexican-American children it's
                31 percent. Such inactivity is troubling, since
                childhood obesity sets the stage for a fat adulthood,
                and with it, increased risks of high blood pressure,
                diabetes, and heart disease.

                Teen slugs. Most boys do a pretty good job of
                getting off the couch for at least three 20-minute
                bouts of vigorous activity weekly. Young girls are
                almost as active as boys, but by the teen years
                fewer than 65 percent get the minimum
                recommended exercise, with 20 percent of teenage
                girls getting no exercise at all. Black and
                Mexican-American children exercise less than
                white children, perhaps because of parents'
                concerns about neighborhood safety.

                That's a problem because regular, moderate
                exercise throughout life is the key to health and
                longevity. Health authorities say kids should have
                daily PE classes through high school. But physical
                education is becoming history in many school
                districts, thanks to budget cuts and competition
                from other activities. Illinois is the only state that
                still requires daily PE in each year of school;
                nationwide, most high school students take PE just
                one year. The classes that do still exist often don't
                offer more than six to 10 minutes of aerobic
                exercise. Yet for many kids, particularly those
                whose parents have neither the time nor money to
                get them to soccer or ballet after school, PE is their
                best chance to get a regular workout.

                To get kids off the couch, parents need to get
                moving, too. It's no wonder that our children are
                such slugs, when 25 percent of adults get no
                exercise at all. Here's a small sacrifice you can
                make for your kids: Give up 30 minutes of TV, and
                take them for a walk. It's an investment in your
                child's future, it's free, and it pays you the dividend
                of a smaller waistline.