Friday, August 10, 2007

Fact: TV Makes Kids Stupider.

Don't believe me? Check out this article from, tantalizingly titled "Baby Einsteins: Not So Smart After All." I have to admit, we've plunked the tots down in front of those videos before, though I often failed to see the appeal. Still, if it was supposed to be, as Homer Simpson might put it, smartening them up, why not?

Oh, but we were wrong, says journalist Alice Park, who tosses out such tasty, guilt-inducing morsels as:

Led by Frederick Zimmerman and Dr. Dimitri Christakis, both at the University of Washington, the research team found that with every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos. These products had the strongest detrimental effect on babies 8 to 16 months old, the age at which language skills are starting to form. "The more videos they watched, the fewer words they knew," says Christakis. "These babies scored about 10% lower on language skills than infants who had not watched these videos."


Mounting evidence suggests that passive screen sucking not only doesn't help children learn, but could also set back their development. Last spring, Christakis and his colleagues found that by three months, 40% of babies are regular viewers of DVDs, videos or television; by the time they are two years old, almost 90% are spending two to three hours each day in front of a screen. Three studies have shown that watching television, even if it includes educational programming such as Sesame Street, delays language development.

...and, my favorite...

He and other experts worry that the proliferation of these products will continue to displace the one thing that babies need in the first months of life — face time with human beings. "Every interaction with your child is meaningful," says Christakis. "Time is precious in those early years, and the newborn is watching you, and learning from everything you do."

The only flaw I can find in the piece is that Park calls Sesame Street "educational," a claim I've found dubious ever since they introduced that stupid fairy character. She's cute, but I think she exists more to sell ancillary products than to teach my kids how to count to twenty. For a more incisive take on the whole business of that show, check out this flammably titled LA Times article: "Elmo Is An Evildoer."

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