For years now, parents have been buying videos from companies like Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby, aiming to increase their children’s intelligence. Pediatricians have been wary of these videos, even recommending that children use no screen media until they are two years old. Today, a study by Zimmerman and Christakis shows evidence that the videos may not provide the intellectual leaps parents are hoping for.
Over 1,000 parents of children under two were surveyed about how much their children watched the videos and how much their children’s language skills had progressed. The researchers found that the children who regularly watched baby videos scored about 10% lower on language skills than those who did not watch the videos. "The more videos they watched, the fewer words they knew," says Christakis.
The best way for children to learn at this critical stage of development is to interact with parents, siblings and other people and to explore their environment by manipulating objects. When these kinds of opportunities are replaced by a screen, children are not in an optimal learning situation.
Update 8/17/07: Disney (the owner of the Baby Einstein company) has demanded a retraction of the University of Washington press release about this study, saying that it distorts the research findings.
The University has responded by stating that the school "unequivocally stands behind" the study, which was rigirously peer-reviewed for the reputable journal in which it was published.