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Anti-TV forces declare victory over Baby Einstein

The anti-TV folks just claimed one heck of a prize: Disney has decided to refund Baby Einstein-buying parents the cost of their DVDs. Though the Baby Einstein refund page doesn't give any context about what drove the decision, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood claimed victory:

The refund offer is a wonderful victory for families and anyone who cares about children. Recent research shows that screen time is not educational for babies. Now parents who purchased Baby Einstein DVDs, mistakenly believing the videos would make their babies smarter, can recoup their money.

The opinions espoused on this blog have been pretty clear: Television is not, in general, the best thing to expose your children to, especially the under-2 set, even though it may not actually turn many brains to mush. And older kids could probably do with less tube time. (Heck, with the possible exception of "Project Runway" and "Mad Men," there's not much for adults, either.) No one -- I hope -- still labors under the Baby Einstein-fueled illusion that any television, no matter how well crafted or marketed, will actually leave kids better off. I'd be curious to see whether anyone takes Disney up on their offer

Disney's retreat doesn't mean the end of TV for kids. As I write this, my children are happily camped out in the living room glued to the flickering screen, and I'm well aware that they'd be better off doing something else. But if it buys me a couple minutes of repose, I'm willing to accept that, especially as the kids get older. We've talked in the past about how different parents parcel out television, and -- as always -- I'm curious to know if any of you approach TV time in a particularly consistent way.

By Brian Reid |  October 26, 2009; 7:25 AM ET  | Category:  Child Development
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Comments


"with the possible exception of "Project Runway" and "Mad Men," there's not much for adults, either"

"White Collar" is entertaining. So are lots and lots of movies.

Posted by: jezebel3 | October 26, 2009 7:34 AM | Report abuse

"Now parents who purchased Baby Einstein DVDs, mistakenly believing the videos would make their babies smarter, can recoup their money."

There's one born every minute.

Posted by: jezebel3 | October 26, 2009 7:36 AM | Report abuse

The TV is evil!

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | October 26, 2009 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Brian, I will argue that some t.v. can leave your child better off. The visual medium is compelling and a well crafted program can plant a seed. Our kids recently enjoyed a Discovery channel program on mummies. When our National Geographic Magazine with a cover story on animal mummies arrived, they couldn't wait to have me read it to them. I will agree that there isn't anything on the Disney channel that will leave your child better off!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | October 26, 2009 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Hey, I'm a fan of the best documentary on TV. "The Big Bang Theory."

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 26, 2009 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Hey, I'm a fan of the best documentary on TV. "The Big Bang Theory."

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 26, 2009 8:20 AM | Report abuse


You mean "Elmer Gantry".

Posted by: jezebel3 | October 26, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

This is no better than McDonalds because your coffee was too hot. These parents should be ashamed.

Posted by: mle5261 | October 26, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

I watch TV, my kids watch TV. Everyone is allowed to watch TV. I think it's fine if Disney sells the Baby Einstein videos, they simply should not be allowed to make the false claim that the videos will make your kid smarter.

We've been able to limit everybody's TV time in our house by not having cable. No rules or will power needed when there's nothing that you want to watch.

Posted by: KS100H | October 26, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

so.....

The members of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood believed that by buying and attempting to get their babies to watch B.E., the kids were going to become smarter?

I guess if the intelligence of the members is the yard-stick, then the kids should measure relatively well.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | October 26, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I haven't owned any of the Einstein DVDs but when I did see one I always thought it was a bit creepy. Am I alone?

We do watch a fair bit of PBS Kids Sprout in our house but 2 year old DS could take it or leave it most of the time. They do play the old-school Sesame Street which he does love. I love Thomas because it transfixes him and I in turn get to clip his nails. Other than that he only gets to see ESPN which he mostly only pretends to watch because Daddy is.

P.S. Now if only those "Your Baby Can Read" people would follow suit!

Posted by: Liana.Kang@yahoo.com | October 26, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

We've been able to limit everybody's TV time in our house by not having cable. No rules or will power needed when there's nothing that you want to watch.

Posted by: KS100H | October 26, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

What do you do for porn?

Posted by: jezebel3 | October 26, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Should parents be leery of allowing a small child to watch sports on TV?

Posted by: ckstevenson | October 26, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

jezebel - the Internet, silly. Cheaper and more variety. (Um, not that I know anything about that; merely academic research, you understand. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 26, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

In our household, which consists of four children ages 16 months to 7 years, we have yet to succumb to the TV bug. I stay at home with the kids (two are in school now) and the children do not watch any television or DVDs at all during the weekdays and only occasionally an age-appropriate movie on the weekends. And yes, I manage to cook, clean, take a shower, clip their nails and have time to myself without the children being comatose in front of a flickering screen. There’s plenty of time for them to watch TV in their lives and we feel that unstructured play time by themselves is much more beneficial to their developing minds.

Posted by: Discman | October 26, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Did anyone *really* buy those videos thinking they would make their kids smarter? Everyone I know who has them uses them so they can take a shower or make dinner.

Posted by: floof | October 26, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

If you want to believe that baby Einstein helps your baby, fine. If you want to believe TV is evil, fine. Just stop preaching to the rest of us that want to enjoy the occasional Sponge Bob or whatever is on Disney (because all the shows are the same to me).

My approach to TV is, yes you can watch it if all homework is done, all other avenues of other entertainment have been exhausted or I am feeling really lazy and just say "Yes". Just keep the volume down, and if I want to watch something else I can kick you into the basement.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | October 26, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

"Just stop preaching..."

Awe C'mon Cheeky, I only said 4 words, I thought everybody liked a short sermon...

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | October 26, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Did anyone *really* buy those videos thinking they would make their kids smarter? Everyone I know who has them uses them so they can take a shower or make dinner.

Posted by: floof | October 26, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

How did people manage to take showers or make dinners before TV?


Posted by: jezebel3 | October 26, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Wacky, Wasn't pointed just at you, I am just tired of hearing how bad/good TV is for kids. Good Golly Miss Molly, didn't we all grow up on TV??

Posted by: cheekymonkey | October 26, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I can sympathize with parents who read Time Magazine's articles on baby brain development and think these videos can have an effect. It's not implausible, just wrong. Now they know.

I sympathize less with the corporations whose advertising played on the parents' emotions without understanding what they were doing to kids.

Posted by: CDRealist | October 26, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Eh, my son had one of the videos, but I didn't ever think it would make him smarter. I just thought it was something interesting for him to look at for a couple of minutes.

I'm not particularly concerned about TV, as my son would much rather be outside playing baseball or football with us. He gets to watch right when we get home from work and preschool (he's almost 4) while I make dinner, then after we eat we usually do something together (ride bikes, walk, play go fish) before bath. He needs the wind-down time just as much as adults do after a long, hard day of serious playing. If he ever stops wanting to go outside and play, then I'll cut it off.

Posted by: Mazarin | October 26, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Jezebel, I asked my grandmother this, and she said toddlers used to spend a lot of time in the playpen. Is tv worse than that? I don't know.

Posted by: floof | October 26, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

"How did people manage to take showers or make dinners before TV?"

They told their kids to go outside and play. A parent of a young child can't do that anymore. If a masher doesn't get them, CPS will.

Also Cheeky, I hear you on the good/bad stuff about TV gets tired, but that's why I post those 4 words everytime the OP makes TV the conversation piece, it's an entertainment thing for me rather than anything else. But this is the thing - Kids today have computers, email, dbds, cable TV with hundreds of channels, instant messaging, video games, cell phones, texting, blah, blah, blah, all media devices subject to a child wasting countless hours doing little more than entertaining themselves. However, if somehow one can rationalize that these forms of entertainment are "educational" it makes it OK. For the record, I think all these media devices have potential to deliver both entertainment *AND* education.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | October 26, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Jezebel, I asked my grandmother this, and she said toddlers used to spend a lot of time in the playpen. Is tv worse than that? I don't know.

Posted by: floof | October 26, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse


And what did parents do before playpens?

Posted by: jezebel3 | October 26, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

"And what did parents do before playpens?"

Carried the kids around in slings on their backs while they worked the fields.

Or had the maids watch them, if they were part of the 1% upper class that didn't have to work.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 26, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

What did Einstein's parents do before Baby Einstein?

This product must have been marketed to the most pretentious bores...

Posted by: jezebel3 | October 26, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I have bought several Baby Einstein videos but neither one of us ever bought into the idea that they would make our child smarter. We bought them because they are a good distration for him and he seems to enjoy them, although much of the time they just end up providing background noise while he is playing or exploring. It seems to me the only problem with these videos is when parents use them as their main or only tool to try to help their child develope and learn.

Posted by: chibbs2000 | October 26, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Our kids get TV every day. A few minutes (about 20) in the morning when I am running around like crazy to get ready for work, and then from 15-45 minutes at night, depending on when we finish dinner. Both my kids really like Zula Patrol and The Electric Company on public television.

On the weekends they get a lot more, but I do my best to make sure the TV time is broken up by physical activites.

@ckstevenson: I don't think sports are particularly damaging although my concern for young children is that people tend to zone out for several hours while watching sports...so a baby might benefit from getting more attention if "the game" is on all day.

I try to avoid the news and really violent movies when my 2 year old is around. And I try to avoid the Hannah Montannah type "tween" shows generally, because they make me want to puke, and also because I think set a bad example for my 5 year old.

Posted by: michelleg1 | October 26, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me the only problem with these videos is when parents use them as their main or only tool to try to help their child develope and learn.

Posted by: chibbs2000 | October 26, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Nooo, the problem is the suckers who buy the videos.

Posted by: jezebel3 | October 26, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

We bought Baby Beethoven and I was able to eat lunch while the baby watched.

We've bought several more.

I won't return them and I hope Disney keeps producing them. World Music is a family favorite.

Posted by: amelia6 | October 26, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

To me, TV is an easy way to buy some downtime. We use it when one or more of us is tired, sick or grumpy and worn down. Which is less than daily but not by much (which I suppose is kind of sad, but hey...don't we all struggle with that right-before-dinner time of day?).

We prefer to watch together, so our main rules on content are that it doesn't freak out my son and my husband and I can stand to watch it repeatedly, which has pretty much limited us to a subset of Pixar and Miyazaki (sp?) movies, and a few random other ones. And he really likes the Discovery Planet Earth series, although I'm tiring of it.

Most of the other kids series drive us adults insane so we don't do them.

Posted by: LizaBean | October 26, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

The 8 and 6 yr olds get no tv during the week until Friday and the weekend. It's not really a "tv is the devil" reason; it's more that by the time we get home from work and they're picked up from aftercare, there's really only time for homework, dinner, showers, a game (maybe) or a chapter or two of a book (maybe). They get online occasionally but the computer isn't much of a difference to me from tv, even educationally since they only go on those sorts of sites. I have no problem saying that every now and then they ask sweetly, "can we have a privilege to go downstairs?" Yup, sure can.

We do still regulate what CAN be watched (as I wonder why regular Nick shows are sometimes shown on The N station that shows those horribly graphic Degrassi previews)...wait, what were we talking about?)

Posted by: 1moreandthen | October 27, 2009 1:10 AM | Report abuse

The poor people who are seduced by pop psychology and who think they can nurture their kids into geniuses. The title is so pretentious - Baby Einstein. Gimme a break.

Sir Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Wolfgang Mozart, Nikolai Tesla, and yeah, even Albert Einstein, did not look at "Baby Einstein" when they were infants.

Turn the tv off and start reading to those babies, early on. . . if you want the best dividends

Posted by: joelcavicchia | October 27, 2009 6:06 AM | Report abuse

Hey there's Discovery, History, & other decent adult content on TV, and the fact is that much of that same content is kid-friendly too. Learning to value learning is probably worth more than a dvd ever will be.

Posted by: timscanlon | October 27, 2009 7:58 AM | Report abuse

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