AboutKidsHealth, leading online Canadian provider of children’s health information, discusses the potentially negative impact that education videos can have upon kids’ language development.
From a parent’s perspective, educational videos for babies and toddlers are practically a dream product; needing a break perhaps to do chores around the house, parents could plunk baby down in front of the TV thinking it was good for them because it stimulated the learning process.
The problem is, studies show these videos do nothing of the sort.
“There is no evidence supporting any educational claims of these videos,” says Heather Lavigne, child development researcher at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. “Previous studies show poorer language is associated with TV viewing.”
In 2004, research began to emerge suggesting “Baby Einstein,” and other videos like it, do not improve the development of language. Counter-claims and controversy ensued, lawsuits were threatened, and some refunds were offered. Despite this, these types of videos remain extremely popular with many parent-consumers.
They also remain an area of scientific research. “We wanted to know why language suffers when the TV is on,” says Lavigne, on the study she presented on the development of language at the Society for Research in Child Development’s Biennial Meeting.
Lavigne and her colleagues studied 114 babies, aged between 12 and 21 months, and their parents. These baby/parent dyads were assigned to either watch ‘Baby Einstein’ videos, ‘Sesame Beginnings’ videos, or no videos at all. After two weeks, the baby/parent groups were brought into the lab and observed interacting with the program on, and after without the TV. The groups were then scored on language use.
“Parents are decreasing the quantity and quality of language in the presence of television,” says Lavigne. “84% of parents used fewer words per minute in the presence of Baby Einstein than when the TV was not on.” Moreover, 74% of parents used fewer new words per minute with Baby Einstein than without. The ‘Sesame Beginnings’ group showed similar reductions in quantity and quality of language used.
One of the most important ways babies learn language is through listening to, and eventually speaking with, their parents. In general, the more parents speak and the more complex their language, the better the child’s language development. For example, if you say to your toddler that, “The tiger is munching the banana,” he will likely figure out the novel word ‘munching’ means ‘eating’. A child learns to master language over the course of thousands of these parent/child interactions. The more, the better.
“Any moment the TV is on is a moment the parents are providing less input, both in quality and quantity,” says Lavigne, noting that many parents did not increase their language use after the TV was turned off. For Lavigne, the reduction in parent language is one mechanism by which early exposure to baby videos may hinder development.
Please visit AboutKidsHealth for additional education and children’s health resources, milestones for the development of speech and language, or for the original Bieber fever article, go to:
AboutKidsHealth is the leading Canadian online source for trusted child health information, and has a scope and scale that is unique in the world. Developed by SickKids Learning Institute in collaboration with over 300 paediatric health specialists, the site provides parents, children, and community health care providers with evidence-based information about everyday parenting information, health and complex medical conditions, from the effect of educational videos for kids, to Bieber Fever, to how children lean language from Skype. AboutKidsHealth adheres to rigorous quality standards for the creation and review of health information.
Visit www.aboutkidshealth.ca to find out more.
For more information, please contact:
Sue Mackay, Communications
The Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue