For those of you who have not heard, Disney is offering refunds to parents who have purchased the Baby Einstein videos. Of course, this was not done willingly or even out of the goodness of Disney’s heart. They were threatened with a lawsuit by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, who cited studies connecting early childhood television watching with later attention problems.
I hope the refunds can help parents acquire something important, like books, puzzles, or a healthy snack.
I hope that parents begin to acknowledge how early childhood exposure to stimuli affects later sensitivity, comprehension and integration of stimuli. It isn’t rocket science, but some parents don’t get it. If you expose the developing brain to too much visual stimuli–especially highly engaging, long-lasting stimuli–the brain will become “addicted” to this type and intensity of stimuli. It will become the minimum threshold for achieving and maintaining the child’s attention. This spells disaster for the child when he or she is supposed to begin reading, listening to adults, or writing on a blank piece of paper. The duller stimuli simply cannot compete.
Same thing with video games. Leapfrogs. Computer games that teach reading and math. Children learned how to read and write and do arithmetic quite well without any of these accoutrements; why in the world would we think that children need them today?
The short answer is: children do not need them at all. What they need is a cardboard box, some dirt, a stick, a ball, pots and pans, pillows, and fresh air. Let them figure out what to do with it all; that will increase their intelligence far more than any videos or computer games ever could. It will also help your child’s brain develop the attention and concentration skills necessary to succeed in school and the workplace.