“The Video Zombies: Are They Hypnotized Or Just Absorbed?” By Barbara Frengel Reeves (from a series of columns by Assistant Drector of Research of the Children’s Television Workshop)

Is there a Zombie in your house?

At the Children’s Television Workshop we use “zombie” to describe a child who watches television in a certain way. You know the look: your youngster stares wide-eyed at the screen, not talking or even moving.

Some parents accept zombiedom, others find it quite upsetting. Seeing their children sit for hours in this trance-like state has prompted some parents to put a limit on how much TV the youngster are allowed to watch.

While testing material for the new “Sesame Street” series, we at the Workshop have observed hundreds of children viewing television. We’re well acquainted with the zombie syndrome and have discovered some reasons that make children watch this way.

First, the programs are complex, as complex as radio soap operas used to be. Tune in to one of the programs your child likes and you’ll see what I mean. He has to give the story all his attention so that he can keep track of what’s happening.

And how does he watch TV? Few children are able to watch a program undisturbed. Instead, mother polishes the furniture, brothers and sisters argue, people walk in and out of the room, the phone rings, the mailman comes to the door, and so on.

Don’t be concerned if your child is a TV zombie. You know him well enough to make certain he’s getting enough needed exercise and play.

Different people concentrate in different ways. Notice the man of the family when he watches a ball game.

And how many times have you been talking on the phone only to come to when the cake burned?

So don’t be alarmed if your child is a TV zombie. That’s only his way of concentrating.