Saturday, September 1, 2007

Baby Einstein

I'm feeling a little less like a overly-concerned, psychotic parent for deciding with Michael not to let John watch television after running across this piece in the latest issue of TIME.

A few pertinent excerpts:

In the latest study on the effects of popular videos such as the "Baby Einstein" and "Brainy Baby" series, researchers find that these products may be doing more harm than good. And they may actually delay language development in toddlers. . .

The [University of Washington] research team found that with every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos.
These products had the strongest detrimental effect on babies 8 to 16 months old, the age at which language skills are starting to form...

Last spring, Christakis and his colleagues found that by three months, 40% of babies are regular viewers of DVDs, videos or television;
by the time they are two years old, almost 90% are spending two to three hours each day in front of a screen...

This growing evidence led the Academy to issue its recommendation in 1999 that no child under two years old watch any television...

Though the popular baby videos and DVDs in the Washington study were designed to stimulate infants' brains, not necessarily to promote language development, parents generally assume that the products' promises to make their babies smarter include improvement of speaking skills. But, says Christakis, "the majority of the videos don't try to promote language; they have rapid scene changes and quick edits, and no appearance of the 'parent-ese' type of speaking that parents use when talking to their babies..."

As far as Christakis and his colleagues can determine,
the only thing that baby videos are doing is producing a generation of overstimulated kids. "There is an assumption that stimulation is good, so more is better," he says. "But that's not true; there is such a thing as overstimulation." His group has found that the more television children watch, the shorter their attention spans later in life. "Their minds come to expect a high level of stimulation, and view that as normal," says Christakis, "and by comparison, reality is boring."

I've always been a little weirded out by the whole Baby Einstein thing and had read just enough before John was born to think that television in generally is a bad idea for small children. Thus we made a conscious decision to not set him in front of a television or watch very much ourselves from the time he was little bitty. We did attempt to not make a big deal about it and it's been pretty easy even when we're visiting friends and family to keep John away from the tube. He rarely shows any interest even when he does have access anyway.

I'm definitely not trying to down people that use Baby Einstein or let their kids watch Dora. (Though I'd hope it's not for two to three hours everyday. I mean, wow.) I'm sure I haven't done the stay-at-home mom thing long enough to really appreciate the times when you just need you child to sit down and be still long enough for you to take a shower, make a meal or just mentally regroup. And I just have one and I'm sure the more you have, the more tempting it is to pop in the DVD and take a few precious minutes to breath through a paper bag.


Phil P. said...

Enjoy gloating much? :)

Just kidding!

Funny how John never watches TV, but he can always find the power button on any given set!

Michael said...

He may have seen daddy play a few X-box games in his days :)

Rebekah said...

I have to gloat about something. He gets all his good looks from Michael. ;)