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From the archive - 24.12.1982

Bedtime horror with video

Children as young as 9 lull themselves to sleep by watching horror films and video "nasties" on their bedroom television sets and video players, according to a survey of bedtime habits.

Among the films that children admit to watching are The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Driller Killer, an especially bloody tale that has brought protests from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. In some parts of the country, such as the oil boom towns of Scotland's east coast and the cities, nearly half the children aged 9-13 have televisions in their bedrooms, sometimes with a video player.

Mr Nicholas Whines, producer of BBC Radio's In the News, which carried out a detailed survey of the bedtime habits of 28,000 children across the country, said: "I was disturbed to see how many children watched things I wouldn't go to see. We got quite a lot of children writing to us saying they couldn't sleep for several nights after watching something like The Exorcist."

The survey was originally part of a questionnaire sent out as publicity for In the News, a new weekly programme for primary schools. But 879 urban and rural schools responded and supplied a comprehensive picture of bedtime habits.

Bedtime for most children is rigidly controlled by their parents, especially in rural areas. There are slight differences between urban and rural patterns: 56 per cent of country children have to be home by 7.30pm or earlier, while only 46 per cent of those in towns need to be home by then. Very few - 10 per cent of the sample - are allowed out after 9.30pm. Most children in both groups have to be in bed by 10pm.

Once there, urban children read less but eat more than their country counterparts. The survey shows that on the whole children in Scotland and the North of England have later home and bed times that those in the South.

In the News followed up the survey by asking children to write about their bedtime habits and fears, "(which reveal) the sometimes disturbing, after-dark world they (inhabit)".

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