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Does TV make smart babies?

March 4th, 2009 / 4 Comments

Parents want the best for their babies. Does that mean having to spend a lot of money on “educational” material such as “Baby Einstein” and “BabyGenius”?

CNN reported a study that shows TV viewing of educational DVDs have no benefits.

According to CNN, “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.

The CNN report says, “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.”

Pretty harsh, uh? Do you agree?

Common sense tells you that babies do not learn from passively sitting there. Children, human beings for that matter, have a natural sense of curiosity to satisfy by interacting with their environment. Babies like to explore, touch, manipulate, feel with their senses.

Dr. Michael Rich makesa good point when he said of these types of DVDs and videos, “You’re teaching 4- or 5- or 6-month-olds how to watch TV. They’re learning to watch TV…”

Do we really want to teach our babies to watch TV?

According to Marie Evans Schmidt, a developmental psychologist instructor at Harvard Medical School, “there’s still more evidence of harm than benefit as far as TV viewing in infancy is concerned.”

My take on “Baby Einstein” and other such programs is, why spend all that money?

Singing to your baby, dancing with your baby in your arms, drawing together by holding your baby’s fingers griped with a crayon,  snuggling in bed to read a picture book – these are much better ways for your baby to learn music and the arts.

What babies need most are not expensive programs to watch. They need us.

(Read the rest of the CNN article here.)


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  1. Babies learn from being with people. They learn better when there is solid secure attachment and they trust their care provider. The brain needs to “know” someone is there for them, all the time. Turn off the tube. Carry your baby around more, interact with your baby more (in positive healthy ways.) Google brain growth in babies. Learn what they need. It isn’t more Elmo, its more mom and dad’s attention and love.

  2. Dr. Jenn: Thanks for the insight.

  3. […] a previous post, I pointed out a recent debate about whether DVD programs such as “Baby Einstein” are […]

  4. […] we really want that much TV in our lives? We certainly don’t need […]


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