The Electronic Babysitter

Ken AshfordSex/Morality/Family Values4 Comments

I read somewhere (on her blog perhaps, or maybe some Facebook survey) that my friend Heather does not intend to have Cassie (her almost one-year-old) watch television in her infancy.

A little extreme, I thought.  Maybe even counter-productive to her development.  I mean, it largely depends on what she watches, but I couldn't see the harm.  I mean, aren't those DVDs specifically designed for babies a good thing?

Turns out that I was, as I often am, wrong:

(CNN) — Watching television does not make babies smarter, according to a study released this week in the journal Pediatrics, adding to existing research that challenges the usefulness of baby educational videos and DVDs.

Researchers from Children's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and Harvard Medical School reached this conclusion after monitoring more than 800 children from birth to 3 years of age.

"Contrary to parents' perceptions that TV viewing is beneficial to their children's brain development, we found no evidence of cognitive benefit from watching TV during the first two years of life," the authors wrote.

Educational DVD and videos geared towards enriching babies and toddlers, such as "BabyGenius," "Brainy Baby" or "Baby Einstein," which proclaim to "encourage discovery and inspire," have no benefits, researchers said.

This echoes a similar finding published in the August issue of Pediatrics. Researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute found no evidence of benefit from baby DVDs and videos and suggested that it may be harmful. Infants who watched the videos understood fewer words than those who did not watch them.

Pediatrician Dr. Michael Rich, a co-author of the latest study from Boston, calls baby educational DVDs and videos "just wasted time."

"At the very best, they steal time from much more productive cognitive developmental activities," he said. "Ultimately, what it's about is to make parents not feel guilty about an electronic baby sitter."

Good thing I don't have kids.