If the 2007 University of Washington study wasn’t enough to convince parents that Baby Einstein videos don’t turn babies into little Einsteins, perhaps this one will. In what is being called the most definitive study to date of the effectiveness of educational videos for babies, researchers at the University of California at Riverside investigated the Baby Wordsworth video from the Baby Einstein series.
The video, which claims to teach babies new vocabulary words, was found to have absolutely no impact whatsoever on language acquisition.
The new study, which was published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, differed from the University of Washington study in that rather than just asking parents about their babies’ viewing habits, 96 babies were actually assigned to watch or avoid watching the Baby Wordsworth video for a period of six weeks.
During the study, the 12- to 14-month-old babies from both groups were tested for vocabulary acquisition every two weeks. Psychologist Rebekah Richert, who led the study, says that while all the kids added new words to their repertoires during this period, the video-watching babies didn’t learn any more than the non-video-watching babies.
While this study may indeed be the last word on whether or not watching videos encourages early language development in young children, it doesn’t answer the question of whether or not these videos actually cause harm. The University of Washington study concluded that young children who watch television are at higher risk of language delays and attention problems. While this new study didn’t directly address that issue, the researchers say the results may indicate that unlike the interactive learning that takes place one-on-one with an adult, the passive viewing of overstimulating videos may be too much for baby to handle, effectively paralyzing the brain and preventing any learning from taking place.
Or perhaps, as the researchers also suggest, parents who buy into the claims of Baby Einstein and other so-called educational videos are relying on them to do the jobs they themselves should be doing. Richert says that for children under the age of two, social interaction is key to learning.
But Richert doesn’t go as far as to say that parents should never let their young children watch these types of videos. As with most everything else in life, moderation and common sense are key. While it is unlikely that parking the kid in front of a video while you unload the dishwasher and get dinner started is going to negatively impact brain development, that time should not be considered a replacement for one-on-one interaction between parent and child.
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