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Turning Baby Into Baby Einstein

Do educational products for babies really give babies an advantage?

Marketing to Parents and Babies

Lois Liebowitz received the Baby Einstein videotapes as gifts for her daughter, Melissa. Although the 2-year-old appears to enjoy the shows, Liebowitz is unsure of their impact on her toddler.

Given her doubts about the value of such educational media, Liebowitz ponders whether or not she would have bought the tapes on her own. "I probably would've been guilt-tripped into it," confesses the Manhattan, N.Y., resident. "There's this thing about wanting to give your kid every advantage, and since you're not sure if this really makes a difference, then you better do it in case it really does make a difference."

The 45-year-old marketing executive says her fears about being a good first-time mother have especially made her more vulnerable. "From an advertising perspective, you're almost like a sitting duck," she says.

Liebowitz is far from being the only parent to feel this way. The sentiment is so common that in a review of the Kaiser survey, an advocacy group called Stop the Commercial Exploitation of Children (SCEC), calls for helping "parents understand the harms associated with marketing to children and themselves."

The editorial explains that babies who watch TV -- even PBS shows -- are exposed to thousands of marketing and commercial messages for things that aren't good for them, such as junk food, toys, and other products.

To Liebowitz's credit, she limits Melissa's TV- and video-watching time to a maximum of 90 minutes per day and makes sure the 2-year-old gets lots of reading time, free play, and trips to places such as the zoo and museum.

Smart Parenting

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time for children who are older than 2 years old and no screen time at all for younger kids.

The no-screen-time-rule may be tough for some parents to follow, given they may find time to do things such as prepare dinner or make phone calls while babies are engaged in educational toys or shows.

Colombo says there's nothing wrong with moms and dads using some harmless merchandise to keep kids occupied for a short amount of time. "Parents need a break, too," he says, adding that caregivers who care about their kids' intellectual development are probably already doing many of the right things. He reminds parents that there is no equation for producing an exceptional child.

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