Disney to give back money parents spent on Baby Einstein videos

By media expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH) at Children’s Hospital Boston.

The Walt Disney Company has acknowledged that Baby Einstein does not teach anything nor does it promote better brain development in your infant. In the face of the scientific research and strong public advocacy on the part of the Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood, they are offering a full refund to any parent who has bought a Baby Einstein DVD in the last five years.

For seven years, the CMCH at Children’s has been conducting, compiling, and translating a growing body of research evidence that demonstrates that infants and toddlers do not benefit from screen media such as television and computers. The best science available shows that children cannot reliably learn anything from an electronic screen until about 30 months. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended since 1999 that screen media be discouraged for children under 2 years old. Despite this, a plethora of screen media from Teletubbies to Brainy Baby to Baby Einstein have been marketed to parents with claims that they will teach your infant words, colors and other concepts. Encouraged by unsupported marketing claims and even the titles of these videos, parents have bought hundreds of millions of dollars worth of infant videos, hoping to give their infant a head start by building a brain like Einstein.

The evidence collected by the CMCH Database of Research demonstrates that this is anything but true. Not only do babies who watch infant videos not show any evidence of improved cognitive development or learning, but one study shows language delays among 8-16 month olds of six to eight words per hour of infant videos watched. CMCH research does show that appropriate amounts of well-designed educational TV programs can improve language skills, reading, math, and school readiness among preschoolers.

These advantages persist in form of higher grades, greater creativity, more reading, placing higher value on achievement, and less anxiety and aggression among high school seniors who watched educational TV during their preschool years. Unfortunately, all that videos teach infants is to watch TV – and CMCH has a large and growing body of evidence linking early TV watching to increased risks for obesity, attention problems, school difficulties, sleep disturbances and anxiety.

While research dedicated to keeping healthy kids healthy and optimizing their physical, mental and social development is usually doing its work “below the radar,” this is a tangible example of the knowledge generated and translated by CMCH directly benefiting the well-being of children and their families. CMCH was founded to provide the research evidence to support parents making informed choices for their growing children. It offers direct open source access to its Database of Research and translates the research into actionable strategies for children and their parents negotiating a media-saturated world. It makes these resources available for free on the CMCH Web site , the monthly parent-directed newsletter and through Facebook and Twitter. If you have questions about your own child’s media use, CMCH offers the new online advice column, Ask the Mediatrician.

If you have a Baby Einstein video bought anytime in the last five years, return it to Disney to demonstrate that you care about your child’s healthy development and wish to invest your money in ways that promote his or her healthy development.

Read a recent post by Dr. Rich about in utero learning—a new trend in “smart baby” products.

Read a story from a Children’s publication about Baby Einstein and other misconceptions about media and children.

Read a news release on a study from earlier this year finding that TV viewing before the age of 2 has no cognitive benefit.

  • Pingback: Don’t deprive kids of nature | Parenting help in Pennsylvania.com()

  • Pingback: Having kids to close together? | Parenting Help in Rhode Island()

  • http://www.playonwords.com Sherry Artemenko

    Dr. Rich,
    As a speech-pathologist who talks to new parents about the value of talking, reading and playing with their infants to build language, I applaud you and your group that is advocating for infants in getting the truth out about baby videos and the myth that they “educate” infants. Every time I see a bookcase full of baby videos in a playroom I see interaction lost.

    Hopefully, parents can be released from the guilt of “being the perfect parent” in using valuable time to show these videos to their babies, and move on the the important piece of their relationship, play.

    Sherry Artemenko
    Play on Words
    http://www.playonwords.com

  • http://www.mydigitalfamily.org dr e schwarz

    MEGA DISNEY FINALLY NOW DOING RIGHT THING!

    The Disney refund story is incredible positive news in the world of children, parents, and media/technology, etc. It has huge implications for child development and family life and the evolving relationships of kids and families with media companies in popular culture. It is a BIG BIG story!. I am a child psychiatrist and expert in this field and in the process of publishing a book – Kids, Parents, and Technology: An Instruction Manual for Young Families — ETA 1 month or so — I applaud those who fought so hard and even Disney.

    EITAN D SCHWARZ MD FAACA

  • Jessica Bryant

    I totally disagree. The only thing that has kept my disabled child happy in all of his hospital stays is baby einstein. If you have a problem with them, donate them to children with special needs. Donate them to hospitals. It will make you feel better and the child will have a much fulfilled life!

  • Amaris

    Any parent who purchased the videos with the thought of teaching an infant valuable information is ignorant and uneducated. The fact they were marketed with that intent does not provide an excuse for ignorance. These videos are not for teaching but merely for entertainment. My daughter was three months old and loved this videos. We would let her watch them for a short period of time. We never thought she was learning colors or words but rather knew she enjoyed the colors, music, and characters. She loved these videos until she was around 18 months old and then moved on. She is six now. She has a wide vocabulary and reads above her grade level. She is bright and articulate. I don’t thank the videos for her intelligence. I thank the videos for providing a little entertainment for my child and a small amount of time where mommy and daddy could unwind while sitting with their small child. I say to all who are outraged at the videos….lighten up and kick yourself for thinking these videos would make your child smarter instead of just pure entertainment.

  • Nicolas

    I got these DVDs from the library, but as Amaris says, I was not expecting my son to start talking after watching them. It is probably bad advertising from Disney, but Baby Einstein is not the only educational video for infants anyways.
    The case is that my son enjoyed watching the videos because of the images and the music.

  • Pingback: Are Kids TV Shows Harmful? (depends on the age and content) | churchrelevance.com()

  • Sarah

    I have to say that I owe a lot to the Baby Einstien movies. I think they are fantastic! Both of my children, who are now 2 and 3, watched them and adored them as infants and continue to watch them now. I bought them because they are entertaining and they provide my children with pictures, colors, and sounds that I might not be able to give them reguarly. The founder of the Little Einstien company states in one of the movie introductions that these videos were a bridge to educating a child with the parents participation. Parents are supposed to view these movies with their children and discuss them with them. Doing so, parents ARE interacting with their children and the children will benefit for this interaction. My children and I play and talk about the movies. Now my two young children can hum Bach and tap Beethoven, they know that Big Ben is in England, they know an assortment of animals and their sounds,colors,numbers, painters, and they even know their planets! My point is that the movies aresupposed to be a tool to aide parents in teaching their children. I see nothing but value in these movies if used correctly. I say keep your movies!

  • Mike Butler

    I personally disagree with this article. My daughter wanted Little Einsteins for her second birthday. She learned plenty form the show including new words, songs, etc. If that isn’t learning, I guess I need someone with a Phd to tell me what she’s been doing. Is it good people can get their money back for products purchased using false claims as their reasoning? What about the millions of get rich quick and lose weight now schemes? How about writing more articles about that? I believe visual stimulus from television has taught my two year old a ton of things as a supplement to reading and personal time.

  • Pingback: Disney to Give Back Money Parents Spent on Baby Einstein Videos()