`Baby Einstein' stunts vocabulary, study says

August 07, 2007|By Amber Dance | Amber Dance,Los Angeles Times

Parents hoping to raise baby Einsteins by using infant educational videos are actually creating baby Homer Simpsons, scientists said today.

For every hour a day that babies 8 to 16 months old watched such popular video series as Brainy Baby or Baby Einstein, they knew six to eight fewer words than other children.

The makers of the videos sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth each year to parents aiming to put their babies on the fast track, even if they are still working on walking.

Unfortunately, it's all money down the tubes, said Dr. Dmitri Christakis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Christakis and his colleagues surveyed 1,000 parents in Washington and Minnesota. They determined the babies' vocabularies using a standard set of 90 common baby words, including mommy, nose and choo-choo.

The researchers found that 32 percent of the babies watched the videos, and 17 percent of those watched more than an hour a day, according to the study in the Journal of Pediatrics.

The videos, which are designed to engage a baby's attention, hop from scene to scene with minimal dialogue and include mesmerizing images, like a lava lamp.

Christakis said children whose parents read to them or told them stories had bigger vocabularies.

"I would rather babies watch American Idol than these videos," Christakis said, explaining that there is at least a chance their parents would watch with them - which does have developmental benefits.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children younger than 24 months.

Amber Dance writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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