Parents feeding their babies a steady media diet of DVDs such as Baby Einstein might want to reconsider. A new study from researchers at the University of Washington reports an unfavorable link between heavy media intake by babies less than two years old and slow language development.
In fact, the study reports that every hour infants and toddlers spend watching DVDs or TV shows such as Barney translates into a weaker score on standardized vocabulary tests than children who don't watch media. Every hour of screen time turns into six to eight words lost on the test, according to a study by Frederick Zimmerman, Dimitri Christakis and Andrew Meltzoff, published this week in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Why is this concerning, given that institutions like the American Academy of Pediatrics have previously recommended no screen time for children less than two years? The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a nonprofit, said it's worrisome because several children's DVD makers still say on their packaging that their videos can be helpful to babies' brain development.
"The number one reason parents allow babies to watch television and DVDs is the mistaken belief that the programming is educational and, or good for brain development," Susan Linn of the CCFC said in a statement.
"This important study is the clearest indication yet of potential harm caused by the false and deceptive marketing of television programming and DVDs that target babies," she added.