Report Examines Videos, DVDs, Video Games and Computer Programs Targeting Infants and Young Children

The Kaiser Family Foundation released a report today called “A Teacher in the Living Room: Educational media for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.” Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, and Michelle Garrison, MPH, from Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center, and the University of Washington’s Child Health Institute were lead researchers of the report.


The Kaiser Family Foundation released a report today called “A Teacher in the Living Room: Educational media for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.” Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, and Michelle Garrison, MPH, from Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center, and the University of Washington’s Child Health Institute were lead researchers of the report.

The report examined 29 top selling electronic media products, such as Baby Einstein, Brainy Baby, Adventure Workshop Tots and Learning with Leap, and other videos, DVD and computer programs that are marketed to parents of infants, toddlers and preschool age children.

“There is no scientific evidence that these products have any proven educational value for young children,” said Dr. Dimitri Christakis, who is a pediatric researcher at Children’s Hospital, director of the Child Health Institute and an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “These products will not make your child smarter and can, in fact, create attention span problems for your child later in life.”

Recent research by Dr. Christakis has shown that children who watch TV and videos before age 3, are more likely to develop attention problems by age 7.

Christakis’s research supports the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation of no screen time (television, video or computer) for children under age 2.

“A child’s brain development is directly linked to the type of stimuli received in the first two years of life, when the brain size triples,” said Dr. Christakis. “If an infant is exposed to a lot of rapid-movement stimulation, like that found on TV and videos, their brain becomes conditioned to expect or seek it. Real life seems extremely boring by comparison.”

“I am not anti-TV, anti-video or computer games,” said Dr. Christakis. “I don’t mind if these products are promoted as entertainment for young children. But I think parents need to be wary when they claim to be ‘educational.’ There’s no research to back it up.”

For the Kaiser Foundation report, researchers at Children’s Hospital reviewed the type and frequency of educational claims made in the products marketing materials and advertising, the product instructions and guidelines that describe how parents can maximize educational value, and whether the manufacturer had done any scientific research to validate their educational claims.

They also conducted interviews with representatives of companies who make and market these products, and did a systematic review of research literature to search for studies that link media usage and cognitive development in children.

The report summarizes a variety of recommendations put forth by advocates such as:

  • Increase research on the impact of educational media products on very young children
  • Create an independent non-profit review service that would make professional assessments of educational media products available to parents, free of charge
  • Create clearer standards for products marketed to parents as “educational”
  • Support the development of non-commercial educational media content for young children.

Dr. Christakis also encourages parents to be active participants in stimulating their child’s cognitive attention. “Read to your child, take them to parks, zoos and museums, play with simple toys such as building blocks to stimulate their imaginations. Don’t plop them down in front of the TV or computer as a substitute for one-on-one interaction.”

About Seattle Children’s

Seattle Children’s Hospital, Foundation and Research Institute together deliver superior patient care, advance new discoveries and treatments through pediatric research, and raise funds to create better futures for patients. Consistently ranked as one of the top 10 children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s Hospital specializes in meeting the unique physical, emotional and developmental needs of children from infancy through young adulthood. Through the collaboration of physicians in nearly 60 pediatric subspecialties, Seattle Children’s Hospital provides inpatient, outpatient, diagnostic, surgical, rehabilitative, behavioral, and emergency and outreach services to families from around the world.

Located in downtown Seattle’s biotech corridor, Seattle Children’s Research Institute is pushing the boundaries of medical research to find cures for pediatric diseases and improve outcomes for children all over the world. Internationally recognized investigators and staff at the research institute are advancing new discoveries in cancer, genetics, immunology, pathology, infectious disease, injury prevention, bioethics and much more.

Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Foundation and Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild Association work together to gather community support and raise funds for uncompensated care, clinical care and research. The foundation receives nearly 80,000 gifts each year, from lemonade stand proceeds to corporate sponsorships. Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild Association is the largest all-volunteer fundraising network for any hospital in the country, serving as the umbrella organization for 450 groups of people who turn an activity they love into a fundraiser. Support from the foundation and guild association makes it possible for Seattle Children’s care and research teams to improve the health and well-being of all kids.

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