Do you feel like the "Baby Einstein" DVDs aren't helping your kid learn? You're not the only one.
Dr. Nina Shapiro: There has been much debate regarding the educational benefit (or detriment) of television viewing, even when the shows in question are educational DVDs for young children. Many educational shows are geared toward children under 2 -- and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for the under-2 crowd. While this may seem Draconian, new data actually shows that even educational DVDs may be harmful to young children.
A new study (set to be published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine) has found that educational videos do not improve language abilities in 1- to 2-year-old children, despite manufacturers' claims that they do. Researchers tested vocabulary abilities in 96 1- to 2-year-olds; half of the children were then given educational DVDs to watch in their homes. Six weeks later, all of the children were tested again. The children who had watched the DVDs had learned NO words specifically emphasized in the DVDs, and they displayed NO increased evidence of language-learning when compared with the group who had not watched the DVDs.
Interestingly, the children who (according to their parents) had begun watching similar DVDs at a very young age scored lower overall on tests of language ability. There are several possible explanations for this. Perhaps parents who are already concerned about their child's language development use DVDs to enhance language learning. Or perhaps parents who use DVDs early are less likely to engage in activities to promote language development. Worst case scenario: Early viewing of even educational DVDs may actually impair language development.
The jury is still out as to why children who watch DVDs have poorer language development than those who don't. Certainly many factors could explain this. While it's unlikely that occasional screen time is truly detrimental to young kids, more and more evidence shows that these "educational" DVDs don't really "educate," as they claim they do. Entertain, maybe. But educate? No.
If you want your children to learn something, get down on the floor with them, play with them, run around, read a book, cuddle. Put some Mozart on in the background for good measure.
|Dr. Nina Shapiro is a graduate of Harvard Medical School, and she completed her residency in ear, nose and throat surgery at Harvard. She is an Associate Professor and Director of Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat at the Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA. She has treated tens of thousands of children with ear problems, sleep problems and breathing problems. She lives with her husband and two young children in Los Angeles.|