We all want our babies to have the best start possible. How much do infant educational videos really help to boost the brain?
Each hour of educational baby DVDs or videos that babies watch per day is associated with an additional 16.99 point decrease in language development scores on standardized testing, according to a study published in the October 2007 Journal of Pediatrics.
This drop is large enough that parents could notice the smaller number of words learned each month. The results of the test used in the study often, but not always, correlate with overall intellectual development.
The babies in this study were 8 to 16 months old. It didn’t make any difference if parents watched the video with the babies, watching was still associated with a large decrease in language skills.
By contrast, reading to the baby at least once a day and storytelling at least once a day were each associated with about a 7 point increase in language scores.
For older toddlers in the study, aged 17 to 24 months, reading and storytelling offered even larger intellectual advantages. No benefit to the videos was found in this age group, at least there was no harm.
From previous studies we know that educational videos can have real learning benefits for kids over 30 months. My take home messages are simple.
First, given the possible negative intellectual impact suggested in this study and the popularity of infant educational DVDs (and their enticing names and marketing) more research should be done quickly to verify or discredit the results of this single study.
Second, in the meantime, interacting with our children is a time-honored and scientifically-validated way to boost their learning, especially if we read to our kids and tell them stories at least once a day.
Third, children learn by imitation. Kids, learning tends to reflect parents learning. If we are learning ourselves, we foster a culture of learning in our children.
Note: Freerice.com is a great example of a way to boost your own vocabulary while helping other people. The idea behind this site is every time you get a correct answer on a vocabulary test (that is cleverly targeted to boost your current language level) 10 grains of rice are given to someone who is malnourished. It’s simple, fun, free, AND a great way for us to learn vocabulary while providing rice to feed hungry children. The World Food Programme of the United Nations announced that the site has already generated enough rice to feed 50,000 people for a day in its first month of operation.
Zimmerman FJ, Christakis DA, and Meltzoff AN. Associations between media viewing and language development in children under age 2 years. Journal of Pediatrics. 2007 151:364-8.