The man who co-founded the “Baby Einstein” videos enterprise but no longer owns the brand is suing the University of Washington for release of records, data and research methods relating to studies on kids and television.
William Clark, who along with his wife Julie Aigner-Clark, launched the company back in 1996, said in a press release earlier this week that he asked a judge to order the university to release records of two studies that concluded young children who watch television are at a greater risk for attention problems and language delays.
“Given that other research studies have not shown the same outcomes, we would like the raw data and analytical methods from the Washington studies so we can audit their methodology, and perhaps duplicate the studies, to see if the outcomes are the same,” Clark said in the statement.
The once popular “Baby Einstein” videos, now owned by the Walt Disney Co., were recently recalled. Under the threat of a class-action lawsuit, Disney offered owners their money back for the tapes and DVDs, which had been sold as educational resources. Clark, stands by the products, the inevitability of TV exposure, and claims the videos are age-appropriate viewing.
The University of Washington claims it gave Clark some of the studies’ records and that they no longer have the rest of what Clark has asked for. Five years ago, when Clark first sued for the information, the University said the records were exempt from release for five years, a protocol which protects researchers’ competitiveness.
What do you think? Like many people, I’ve owned at one time or another “Baby Einstein” DVDs. I never thought they taught kids anything other than the ability to sit and stew in front of the TV (and easy lesson to learn!). I think Disney was right to refund money on these DVDs, even though the owners of them, who I’ve defended, suffered plenty of ridicule.
That said, I think the University of Washington and the studies’ researchers should release the information. I’d like to know more about the effects of TV viewing on children — especially young, young children. Whether it’s good, bad, or a wash — I’d like to quit guessing. Because Clark is correct — whether a little or a lot, TV is inevitable.