FTC Complaint Filed Against Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to prohibit the Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby video companies "from making claims about the educational and developmental benefits of their videos and require that advertisements, packaging and websites for all baby videos prominently display the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendation of no screen time for children under two."

The applicable portion of the AAP policy statement reads:

"Pediatricians should urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of 2 years. Although certain television programs may be promoted to this age group, research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant care givers (eg, child care providers) for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Therefore, exposing such young children to television programs should be discouraged."

I own a Baby Einstein 5 CD set of (simplified cover versions of) classical music and can’t say it impacted Little Miss one way or the other. I didn’t enjoy the tunes though, preferring to play classical music actually performed by an orchestra. (Hint: listen to Beethoven’s Wig.) Whoever came up with the product name "Baby Einstein" is a genius. Not knowing anything else, don’t you want to buy a product for your child branded with the name Baby Einstein?

Guardian news article: Baby-learning videos lack educational value, say American psychologists (May 2006).

CCFC News Release: Parents deserve honest information about baby videos (May 2006).

AAP news release: AAP discourages television for very young children (August 1999).

AAP policy statement: Media education (long document, August 1999).

Kaiser Family Foundation report: A Teacher in the Living Room? Educational Media for Babies, Toddlers,
and Preschoolers (December 2005). The report is a PDF linked on the page. It’s an in-depth look at many aspects of the issue.

I did not locate a page on the Baby Einstein or Brainy Baby web sites addressing these claims, but will add link to one if I’m alerted. E-mail me via the address found at upper right.

I did find this interesting quote in a news release from Baby Einstein touting (?) the increasing role electronic media plays in young lives.

“There is nothing more important than parents and caregivers spending time with their little ones,” continued [Russell Hampton, Senior Vice President and General Manager]. “Baby Einstein videos are created for parents and children to enjoy together as little ones continue their journey of discovery.”

OK, but how many parents watch videos with their toddlers versus use the TV as a babysitter?


4 Responses to “FTC Complaint Filed Against Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby”

  1. thordora says:

    Classical music calms my oldest RIGHT down, so they’re used as wind down tapes at the end of the day, or when she loses it. She enjoys them, and I don’t use them much.

    Frankly, the uproar about TV is beginning to drive me batty. My daughter watches a certain amount each day, and that’s it. I watched about the same as a kid, and I still loved to read and play and do all those kids things. But again, it’s rare that we aren’t with her in the room, and we very much “censor” what she gets to watch. I think there are bigger fish to fry before this one…

    May 3rd, 2006 at 12:05 pm

  2. Carol says:

    I used to use the Baby Einstein videos about 7 years ago — my oldest would watch one when he was small so that I could take a shower or cook dinner. Child #2 and child #3 were never interested in them though. The woman who created Baby Einstein sold out to Disney (or something) and the videos changed quite a bit.

    May 3rd, 2006 at 7:06 pm

  3. Darrell says:

    I am an educator with advanced degree work in child education and early development, so think I can speak on this issue. My two kids have been watching the various Baby Einstein videos for years. Like Thordora’s kids, they get to watch maybe one video at night after dinner and activities before they go to bed. They (and I quite frankly) have always loved them. I think they are funny, well produced and often informative. I don’t think the videos have made my kids any more geniuses than they would otherwise have been, but they certainly haven’t hurt their intellectual or social development either. Obviously if parents use them as all day baby sitters in an attempt to replace a need to actually interact with their kids, then of course the kids will be damaged as a result.

    September 1st, 2006 at 7:13 pm

  4. Desiree says:

    I´m a musician, so I got the baby einsten video about the orchestra and I was so upset when my kid saw it because the oboe which is a very important instrument in the orchestra doesn´t apper!!! I can believe you were able to do a video of the orchestra and you didn´t includ such an important instrument. I suggest you try to know more about the orchestra before you make such a mistake.

    October 3rd, 2008 at 5:50 pm

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