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Thomas the Tank Engine worries psychologist

Crashes could frighten children, Young says

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LONDON, March 11 (Reuters) -- The children's hit television series Thomas the Tank Engine shows too many crashes and may be making children frightened of going on a train, according to a British psychologist.

The animated television series featuring the little steam engine's adventures, a hit in Britain for almost 20 years, has been broadcast in more than 130 countries.

Brian Young, a psychology lecturer at Britain's Exeter University, told the Times newspaper on Tuesday the large number of accidents in the programs could have a negative influence on children.

"Thomas the Tank Engine is aimed at a pre-school audience who tend to be more likely to see the program as a reality," said Young, an expert on how children react to TV programs.

There is evidence that children who watch program that consistently portray the same image tend to think there is more danger than there actually is, he explained.

"As a result there is a possibility that the sheer amount of crashes they see on Thomas could frighten them," Young said. "Seeing lots of crashes on TV means they could end up absolutely terrified of going on a train."

The Times quoted a spokesman for ITV, which broadcasts the show, as saying it was confident the series was suitable for children. Thomas is owned by British media company Hit Entertainment, along with Barney the Dinosaur, Bob the Builder and other animated characters.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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