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Baby DVDs, videos may hinder, not help, infants' language development

Despite marketing claims, parents who want to give their infants a boost in learning language probably should limit the amount of time they expose their children to DVDs and videos such as Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby. Rather than helping babies, the over-use of such productions actually may slow down infants eight to 16 months of age when it comes to acquiring vocabulary, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Washington and Seattle Childrens Hospital Research Institute.

The scientists found that for every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants understood an average of six to eight fewer words than infants who did not watch them. Baby DVDs and videos had no positive or negative effect on the vocabularies on toddlers 17 to 24 months of age. The study was published today in the Journal of Pediatrics. The most important fact to come from this study is there is no clear evidence of a benefit coming from baby DVDs and videos and there is some suggestion of harm, said Frederick Zimmerman, lead author of the study and a UW associate professor of health services. The bottom line is the more a child watches baby DVDs and videos the bigger the effect. The amount of viewing does matter.

Co-authors of the study are Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrics researcher at Seattle Childrens Hospital Research Institute and a UW professor of pediatrics, and Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of the UWs Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences.

The paper is part of a larger project looking at the trajectory of media viewing in the first two years of life and examining the content of what is being watched and its effects on young children. A paper published last spring by the same researchers showed that by 3 months of age 40 percent of infants are regular viewers of television, DVDs or videos and by the age of 2 this number jumps to 90 percent.

For both papers, the researchers conducted random telephone interview
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Contact: Joel Schwarz
joels@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
8-Aug-2007


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