Baby development videos like Baby Einstein
and Brainy Baby are little more than snake oil and
can actually slow a toddler's learning, a new study
For every hour per day spent watching
baby DVDs and videos, infants aged eight to 16
months understood an average of six to eight less
words than those who did not watch them, the study,
published in The Journal of Pediatrics, found.
For toddlers aged 17 to 24 months, the DVDs had
neither a positive nor negative effect.
The lead author of the study, Frederick
Zimmerman, an associate professor of health services
at the University of Washington, has called on
parents to limit their childrens' exposure to the
"The most important fact to come from this study
is there is no clear evidence of a benefit coming
from baby DVDs and videos and there is some
suggestion of harm," he said.
In a paper published in May, the same researchers
found about 90 per cent of US children under the age
of 2 and as many as 40 per cent of infants under
three months were regular watchers of television,
DVDs and videos.
Dr Susan Linn, co-founder of the Campaign for a
Commercial-Free Childhood coalition, accused sellers
of the baby development DVDs of "false and deceptive
"Not only is there no evidence that baby videos
do any of the things the baby video industry claims
they do, but these media may actually be undermining
the development of the very skills they claim to
foster," she said.
Dr Linn has filed a formal complaint with the US
Federal Trade Commission over the DVDs.
The American Academy of Pediatrics already
recommends children under the age of 2 should not
watch any television.
The researchers behind today's study surveyed
1,000 families with a child born in the previous two
years, asking them how many of a list of about 90
words, including choo choo, mommy and nose, their
Parents were also asked how often they read books
or told stories to their kids, and the researchers
found daily storytelling was associated with slight
increases in language skills.
They said the baby DVDs were ineffective because
they had little dialogue, short scenes, disconnected
pictures and showed "linguistically indescribable"
images such as a lava lamp.
"I believe the onus is on the manufacturers to
prove their claims that watching these programs can
positively impact children's cognitive development,"
said Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrics researcher at
Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute and a
co-author of the study.
Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of the University of
Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain
Sciences, said parents and caretakers were the
baby's first and best teachers.
"They [parents] instinctively adjust their
speech, eye gaze and social signals to support
language acquisition," said Meltzoff.
"Watching attention-getting DVDs and TV may not
be an even swap for warm social human interaction at
this very young age. Old kids may be different, but
the youngest babies seem to learn language best from