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Study: 'Smart Baby' DVDs Don't Measure Up

Children Taught by Parents Learned More Words, Research Finds
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Smart Baby Videos: Perspective

The new findings don't surprise Frederick J. Zimmerman, PhD, the Fred W. and Pamela K. Wasserman Professor and Department Chair of Health Services, University of California Los Angeles School of Public Health.

"This is a strong and well-designed study that should put the nail in the coffin of claims that baby videos are educational," he says.

 In 2007, Zimmerman studied the effects of viewing television and the ''smart baby'' videos on the language development of children under age 2. He found the baby videos, but not the TV, seem to slow their language development, advising parents to keep viewing to a minimum.

Zimmerman does point out a drawback of the study: They tested learning only of a small set of targeted words. ''Although they found no difference in the acquisition of these target words between parents who had been given videos focusing on these target words and parents who had been given no instruction about the target words at all, it is possible that the time spent on the video would take away learning time from non-targeted words, and that child performance on these other words might have been poorer in the video condition than in the control condition."

That hasn't been tested, however, he says.

But the study does make it clear that no learning takes place with the videos, he says.

Baby Videos: Industry Response

Calls were placed to two companies making the baby videos requesting comment. A spokesperson for Baby Genius said they would have no comment. In a statement, Susan McLain of  the Baby Einstein Company says the new research, in addition to other research they cite, "conclude that infants do learn from DVDs, especially when accompanied by an adult, which is the suggested use of Baby Einstein DVDs."

Smart Baby Videos: To Buy or Not to Buy?

DeLoache says she isn't suggesting parents who like the smart baby videos give them up.  Children will be entertained by them, she says, but adds:  "Don't expect them to learn a lot."

The potential hazard, she says, occurs if watching the videos too much takes the place of interaction with parents and others, which provide learning opportunities.

She points to her finding that parents who simply taught their children the words did well. "The thing that concerns me is people thinking they have to educate their baby in every way possible.  The natural way of doing that has worked very well for a long time and still does," she says.

"The crucial thing is to talk to them."

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