With names like “Baby Einstein,” “Baby Bach,” and “Baby Newton” is it any wonder that new parents and especially new grandparents are going to be tempted to buy into this fad for “hot-housing” babies with DVDs designed to enhance brain development? Simply plonk infant down in front of TV, insert stimulating DVD and watch as brain grows. Simple.
Last year, developmental psychologist Andy Meltzoff got into trouble with the Disney Company who own the Baby Einstein range for publishing a study that showed that rather than enhancing infants’ brains, these DVD’s actually impaired language development. Disney threatened to sue the University of Washington for publishing the press release of the study though I doubt they could have found a better expert opinion than Meltzoff’s to refute his findings.
However a study by a team from Harvard Medical School, published this month in “Pediatrics,” did not find that increased TV viewing in infants under two years related to poorer cognitive development when all the socio-economic factors were considered. But there was no benefit either. Maybe they needed to be watching “Baby Einstein.”
I often get asked about the role of early environment on brain development as so many parents are concerned when they read about the effects of deprivation that come mainly from the animal research. Yes the early environment is important but the deprivation has to be pretty extreme to cause permanent problems. Moreover, giving extra stimulation is not going to create super-smart babies.