Study: Many moms are making infants dumber w/ TV & DVD’s

If you want to really go back in the TV history books, you’ll find that this whole debacle was started with programs such as Sesame Street, Sesame StreetMister Rogers, Captain Kangaroo and 3-2-1 Contact. Hundreds of programs could be added to the list, but it was TV programs like these that started America on the trend of educating their children through one of the most convenient teachers in the house, the television. What has evolved from this are more educational TV Shows that incorporated more interaction like Blue’s Clues where children are asked questions, engaged with music and activities that include other children and the child viewer themselves. By 1997 a new child education system was born, Baby Einstein. The new development of the Baby Einstein DVD baby education package grew to a million dollar business quickly and was soon gobbled up by the Walt Disney Corporation. In the last couple years heavy scrutiny has come out against educational claims made by all these programs and systems.

On May 5th, 2008 a new study was released which you can read here in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine a JAMA publication, concerning TV viewing and verbal interactions among low-income parents and infants. It seems the study was partly developed due to the, “dramatic increase in television programming directed toward young infants” said the author of the study. The direct argument of the proliferation of educational media material for young children, more specifically for this study, 2 years and younger is thInfants in front of a TVere is no data to support this material is educational. The exact statement the authors make in argument of the growth of young children educational media is, “This has occurred despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children younger than 2 years should not watch any television. Much of this programming is marketed toward parents as ‘educational,’ despite limited data to support this assertion.”

This study tackles issues that haven’t been looked at specifically in the past. There were many different types of analysis in the past concerning educational media like Baby Einstein, which we will cover later. This study however found an important link between infants receiving less verbal and physical interaction when viewing any type of TV program. There is a catch here, however, as there always seems to be with anything! If the parent, or mother in most cases, viewed the educational TV programs with the child, termed as coviewing, they interacted with the infants 62.7 percent of the time. Mother-infant interactions were only reported 23.7 percent of the time during all TV viewing but during child-oriented media when mom was around it hit 42.8 percent of interaction time.

So with all the stats and figures it can almost make you wonder if there was a conclusion. The bottom line finds that if an infant is exposed to TV, they have very limited amounts of mother-infant interactions that report at one fourth of all TV viewing the infant is exposed to. While the figures show that mom’s interacted with infants more when viewing educational children’s content they didn’t spend more time coviewing, which in turn didn’t lead to any increased interaction. The final conclusion this study has decided upon is that they don’t really support educational media produced for infants two years and under unless there is someone interacting and coviewing the content with them.

With this most recent study being released it’s almost a Déjà vu moment when looking back at the heated battle that happened between the Baby Einstein DVD Educational ProductUniversity of Washington and the Walt Disney Company. The major claim by a study done at the University of Washing was, “Baby DVDs, videos may hinder, not help, infants’ language development.” The complete press release and coverage to the in depth story can be found on the University of Washington’s article archives here.

The biggest and most damaging claim made by the University of Washington study were the exact figures on how it could be damaging vocabulary development of infants. “Rather than helping babies, the over-use of such productions actually may slow down infants eight to 16 months of age when it comes to acquiring vocabulary”, stated the study. The study went on further to actually pick an exact number of how many words infants were losing in their vocabulary for every hour they watched an educational DVD and video. The study made this claim, University of Washington Seal“The scientists found that for every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants understood an average of six to eight fewer words than infants who did not watch them. Baby DVDs and videos had no positive or negative effect on the vocabularies on toddlers 17 to 24 months of age.” All of these findings were in an effort to explore the potential damage that new found data of young infant TV adoption rates were growing, stating that by 3 months of age 40 percent of infants were regularly watching TV and by age 2 it was 90 percent.

The release of the studies made The Walt Disney Company a very unhappy player in the baby educational arena. It was in 2000 that The Walt Disney Company made a purchase of the Baby Einstein franchise for an undisclosed amount. Since the Baby Einstein franchise had grown to $10 million in revenue by 2000 you can imagine what Disney forked over for it’s new prized possession. When the studies hammered the entire market segment of baby DVD Baby Diplomaeducation, Disney fired back with a letter from the CEO which you can read here. To add the heap of bickering, the President of the University of Washington replied with his own letter back to the CEO of Disney rejecting the complaints which you can read here.

So for all you future parents out there, think twice before you decide to educate your offspring in hopes of bringing them to the ranks of Einstein. Let’s just be honest here though, how many parents have only education on their mind when they sit their infant in front of Sesame Street, Arthur, Blue’s Clues and Baby Einstein DVD’s? If you’re a good parent, you are lying every step of of the way saying it’s all about education when we all know that everyone wants a cheap babysitter from time to time. For the cost of a nice flat-screen, monthly cable fee and a $20 DVD you can have a perpetual baby sitter that also gives that parent the feel good feeling that they are not only keeping the baby quiet, they’re educating them to boot. Leave us a comment and let us all know what you think.


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