Now that I've left comments on a zillion blogs, I have a slight retraction to my post below. After doing a little more research, I did find the abstract of the Journal of Pediatrics article, Associations between Media Viewing and Language Development in Children Under Age 2 Years.
A total of 1008 parents of children age 2 to 24 months were surveyed by telephone in February 2006. (I assume that these are the same parents from the Television and DVD/Video Viewing in Children Younger Than 2 Years study since the amount surveyed is just about the same.) However in this study, parents were asked to complete the short form of the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (CDI).
Results found that among infants (age 8 to 16 months), each hour per day of viewing baby DVDs/videos was associated with a 16.99-point decrement in CDI score.
Among toddlers (age 17 to 24 months), there were no significant associations between any type of media exposure and CDI scores. Amount of parental viewing with the child was not significantly associated with CDI scores in either infants or toddlers.
Since parents, not qualified researchers, were asked to fill out forms, I wonder about the results showing that there was a lack in vocabulary in babies who watched TV, but not toddlers. Did the toddlers catch up? And were parents able to give good data?
No direct observation, and no testing by researchers in a controlled setting. Hmmmm. While it's a start, I feel the study is very preliminary and there isn't enough quality data to justify threatening Disney's or Baby Einstein's reputation and sales.
Smart parents know that these type of videos aren't harmful. And they aren't delusional enough to think that watching them will get their kid into Harvard either. Good parents read to, play and spend time with their kids. But they shouldn't be made to feel guilty if they want to entertain them with a video or TV show so they can shower or cook dinner. Enough with the mommy guilt already!___________________________________________________________________
THE ORIGINAL POST:
I read in the Denver Post that watching educational videos is bad for babies:
In a study published in today's 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.
The study was done by Frederick J. Zimmerman, PhD., Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, and Andrew N. Meltzoff, PhD.
However, I cannot find any mention in the study - and I've read the full text and looked at every table - that watching TV affects language development. In fact, the study concludes that:
The phenomenon of very young children watching television and DVDs or videos is now routine. Children start watching television at a very young age and watch a lot of it. This phenomenon would seem to be driven as much by parental beliefs in the educational and entertainment value of television for very young children as by parental need for an electronic babysitter.
They also concluded that it's better to watch TV with your child than letting them watch alone:
The finding that parents perceive that television has the potential for educational benefit can be used to reinforce the message to increase the proportion of viewing that is with a parent, which may serve to foster the parent-child interactions that have been associated with vocabulary acquisition during infancy.
However, there wasn't any hard data that if you watch TV with your child, they'll have a better vocabulary (or the opposite). Instead, this seems to be the opinion of the researchers, making me wonder about their bias.
For example, Dr. Christakis has a reputation for blaming TV for a variety of behavioral problems in children such as ADD/ADHD. (Some people do not agree with him.) It also seems that he has been targeting Baby Einstein videos since 2005. This bias is also shown in Christakis's bio on the Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute website:
"...the best evidence we have about television viewing among children under the age of three is that not only is there no discernible benefit, it most likely will harm the child by over-stimulating their brain at a critical point in development."
Yet, he hasn't any real proof yet, just a hypothesis. There's nothing wrong with that. But when his opinion is stated as fact backed by research, why isn't the press questioning it?
Because they're lazy, don't care, or want shocking headlines?
We truly have a case of the tail wagging the dog here. I guess there were no new daycare scare stories this week. Even Newsweek has stated Enough with the mommy wars already! Instead we get sensationalized headlines meant to scare the white, affluent, college educated moms who are buying these videos for their kids.
So what conclusions should we draw here? Look up the studies reported in the press, do your research, and decide what is best for your family. And of course, everything in moderation, too.
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