Do babies and toddlers learn from TV?


Most parents with young children rely on DVDs and videos to cook dinner in peace, talk on the phone uninterrupted for five minutes, or to take a much-needed shower. In fact, ask any parent with tots: a good Sesame Beginnings or Baby Galileo DVD is money well spent.

But are these movies good or bad for toddlers and infants? This question is all the more timely given the fact that scientists found that one in four kids under two in the U.S. have a TV in their bedroom, which is often watched from the crib.

The debate over movies designed for kids under three intensified in the late 1990s after several companies, notably Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby, released DVDs and videos that they claimed were beneficial for the diaper set. Many parents bought into this notion, helping to propel the baby video market to more than $1 billion in sales so far.

Still, the American Academy of Pediatrics stuck by a policy that kids under two shouldn't watch television, citing research by scientists that found watching movies may delay language development and lead to behavioral problems. One of these researchers called on toy makers to prove that their products are educational.

"I am frequently asked by parents what the value of these products is," said Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrics researcher at Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington.

"The evidence is mounting that they are of no value, and may in fact be harmful," Christakis said in a story announcing the findings of one of his well-known studies. "Given what we now know, I believe the onus is on the manufacturers to prove their claims that watching these programs can positively impact children's cognitive development."

Now a toymaker says it's got proof that DVDs it makes for very young children can help them learn.