Sunday: Entertainment—TV for Infants

January 4th, 2009 in Sunday: Entertainment Review

I wonder what YOU, my readers, think about television for infants.

Personally, I have had two little babies that are ON THE GO and were/are not interested in television during their first 20 months of life. So this is why I would like your opinion on television geared toward infants.

Pros (from the above company’s websites and press releases):

All Baby Einstein products, including its video line, are designed as interactive tools for parents to use with their babies. The Baby Einstein Company believes, along with the child development experts with whom we have consulted, that parent-child interaction is one of the most critical elements to the development of a healthy and happy baby during the first three years of life. Baby Einstein products are not designed to make babies smarter. Rather, Baby Einstein products are specifically designed to engage babies and provide parents with tools to help expose their little ones to the world around them in playful and engaging ways — inspiring a baby’s natural curiosity.

That being said, The Baby Einstein Company is aware of the ongoing discussions regarding children and television viewing, particularly as it pertains to infants under the age of two years old. And, while we respect the American Academy of Pediatrics, we do not believe that their recommendation of no television for children under the age of two reflects the reality of today’s parents, families and households – for example, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 68% of all babies under two years old watch screen media on any given day. The Baby Einstein Company believes that when used properly, developmentally-appropriate video content can be a useful tool for parents and little ones to enjoy together.

-Baby Einstein

Brainy Baby® products always work best when adults use them interactively with their child. When using a DVD, for example, watch it with your child, talk about what you see, and repeat the names of new things, just as you do when reading a book together. Interaction between parent and child is a key ingredient to getting the most out of our Brainy Baby® products.

-Brainy Baby

Cons (from recent studies and the American Academy of Pediatrics):

The American Academy of Pediatrics, which has consistently recommended against any “screen time media” for babies under age 2.

In a study published in 2007 in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found that, among babies ages 8 months to 16 months, every hour spent daily watching programs such as “Brainy Baby” or “Baby Einstein” translated into six to eight fewer words in their vocabularies as compared with other children their age.

Christakis and his colleagues surveyed 1,000 parents in Washington and Minnesota. They determined the babies’ vocabularies using a standard set of 90 common baby words, including mommy, nose, and choo-choo.

The researchers found that 32 percent of the babies watched the videos; of those, 17 percent watched more than an hour a day, according to the study.

The videos, which are designed to engage a baby’s attention, hop from scene to scene with minimal dialogue and include mesmerizing images.

Christakis said children whose parents read to them or told them stories instead of showing them videos had bigger vocabularies.

“I would rather babies watch ‘American Idol’ than these videos,” Christakis said, explaining that there was at least a chance that the parents would watch with them — giving the babies contact and perhaps interaction that would have developmental benefits.

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.”

He and other experts worry that the proliferation of these products will continue to displace the one thing that babies need in the first months of life — face time with human beings. “Every interaction with your child is meaningful,” says Christakis. “Time is precious in those early years, and the newborn is watching you, and learning from everything you do.” So just talk to them; they’re listening.

-Dr. Dmitri Christakis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle who led up the study.

 

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And yes this is the last post I will do for along while about making everyone feel guilty for not or for letting their children watch TV! Honestly :)

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