Study suggests educational DVDs and TV may not be so good for baby after all

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sesame_street_characters.jpgA new study from researchers at the University of Washington suggests that using educational TV and DVD, such as the “Baby Einstein” and “Brainy Baby” series, or “Sesame Street”, may not be as beneficial for babies and young children as many hoped.

It’s hardly a crime for parents to let their children watch some TV, and if it’s teaching them something too, so much the better (at least, better than letting them watch Big Brother). Even so, the study suggests that for every hour per day that babies watch these DVDs and videos, they learn six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who hadn’t watched them.

Now, parents being told what’s best for their kids by University boffins often leads to emotions running high. While these studies suggest that children who sit passively in front of TV shows don’t do as well educationally, child-raising is a helluva lot more complicated than that.

Earlier studies suggest that 90% of two-year-olds spent two or three hours each day in front of the telly, and while that in itself will worry some, we have to remember that each day has another 21-22 hours to play with.

I know a lot of that time will be spent sleeping, feeding, and working on the stinky nappy production line, but there’s plenty of time for the face-to-face interaction scientists say is needed for effective learning.

Perhaps technology can step in here.

If playing on the Fisher Price Activity Centre with mum is now a bit passé, how about setting up video conferencing around the home, or getting babies signed up with a Facebook account so that they can learn virtually face-to-face with their peers?

The Internet is a big, scary place — but it’s got to be far less scary than having to watch Big Bird, the Teletubbies, or the grinning people of Balamory for the first several hundred days of your earthly existence.

(Via TIME magazine)

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Andy Merrett