Monday, July 15, 2013

Is Fantasy-Fiction Bad For Kids?

Wanted to share this great article!

Peter Gray is right on about control, external motivators and depression, but I want to know more about the role that adult-created-fantasy-for-children plays because I believe it is significant. Take a kid, let him have all the free choice he wants, but spend hours reading stories to him about people with magic and watching movies about dogs that fly and rather than using his own brain and working out his creativity muscles, he will spend the rest of the day (or week) digesting what you just read to him, trying to figure it out, the way a traumatized child would.

A child who experiences something traumatic, like seeing a car accident, will reenact this scene over and over trying to make sense of it and understand it. Processing. The child previously thought that cars don't hit each other or fly through the air but now he saw that happen and he needs to understand. So he "plays" the car accident over and over.

A child who is read a fictional story that doesn't agree with his current understand of reality reacts similarly. Children who previously thought that dogs don't fly but now saw a dog flying also need to play over and over this scene of dogs flying. Or witches casting spells. Or people with magic powers killing bad guys. The child "plays" these scenes over and over until he "understands".

Maria Montessori wrote about the detrimental effects of fiction on children in The Child in the Family. Ayn Rand echos these concerns in her essay "The Comprachicos". Many huge businesses would lose a lot of money if they are right so I can understand why the initial research on this topic was never repeated. I would love to know the role that understanding reality plays in creativity. Don't you have to understand reality in order to recreate it? If you are genuinely confused about reality... how "creative" can you be?

There is something that really doesn't make sense about a billion kids all acting the exact same way and re-enacting the exact same stories... that just can't be how creativity starts.


  1. You linked the same article twice.

  2. Thanks and crap! I deleted the second link but I am left wondering what it was supposed to go to :(