November 3rd, 2009

Einstein didn't have a TV

As a babysitter coming of babysitting age in the late ’90s, I remember Baby Einstein CDs, videos and DVDs appearing and then proliferating in the homes of my employers. The trendy line of “developmentally appropriate products for babies and toddlers” was initially designed by Julie Clark in 1997; in 2001, it was bought by Disney. Last week, Disney announced that they would be offering refunds for the sale of all Baby Einstein DVDs, from June of 2004 to the present. The refund plan comes as a response to a publicity campaign and threats of legal action made by The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an advocacy group that has for years been opposed to Baby Einstein’s media and, it seems, all visual media targeted at infants. From the CCF’s press release:

We hope that in light of this unprecedented refund offer, parents will be reassured that their babies do not need videos in order to learn and grow optimally.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under two shouldn’t be exposed television or “screen media.” I’ve known many children under two to watch an episode of “Sesame Street,” though, and in the age of New Media Literacies, one wonders how useful–or possible–it is to keep an infant in a screen-less bubble. Baby Einstein’s programming–for example, this short clip below that pairs an image of a cow and the letters ‘c-o-w’–seems potentially ineffectual, but relatively harmless.

Early-childhood education programs–not to mention music and dance “classes” for infants–are all the rage, but it seems like educators and parents still have a lot to learn about early development.

Disney Expands Refunds on ‘Baby Einstein’ DVDs [New York Times, 10/23/09]

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