Date of Release:
August 16, 2007
Contact: Dr. Susan Linn (617.278.4282; susan<at>commercialfreechildhood.org)
For Immediate Release
CCFC to Disney: Where’s the Beef?
Show us the Evidence that Baby Einstein Videos are Beneficial to Babies
BOSTON -- The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is challenging the Walt Disney Company to produce evidence that DVDs produced by its subsidiary, Baby Einstein, are beneficial to infants. Today, CCFC launched a letter-writing campaign to Disney CEO Robert Iger urging him to release research showing that Baby Einstein videos are beneficial to babies, and that they cause no harm, or to publicly acknowledge that no such research exists. The campaign was launched after Iger sent a public letter to University of Washington President Mark Emmert criticizing a study suggesting that infants who watch baby media may have a slower rate of language development and demanding the retraction of a University press release issued in conjunction with the study.
“The success of the Baby Einstein brand depends on fostering the belief that their videos are beneficial to infants” said Dr Susan Linn, a psychologist at Judge Baker Children's Center and CCFC’s director. “Instead of criticizing an academic institution’s press release, Disney should be offering research-based evidence to support its marketing claims. It is past time for Disney to share what it knows about the efficacy of Baby Einstein videos or admit that there is absolutely nothing Einsteinian about them.”
“I was one of the peer reviewers for the study by Professors Zimmerman, Christakis, and Meltzoff,” said Victor Strasburger, MD, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. “It is sound research and represents an important contribution to the small but growing body of literature that expresses concerns over babies watching TV and videos. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that babies under the age of 2 should not be watching TV. It's a sad day when Disney has to try to intimidate the academic community and 3 well-intentioned researchers who are simply doing their jobs."
Research points to the effectiveness of marketing media as educational for babies. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, 48% of parents believe that baby videos are beneficial to child development.* The most common reason parents give for putting their babies and toddlers in front of screens is that they are beneficial to their child’s brain development.
In 2006, CCFC filed a Federal Trade Commission complaint against Baby Einstein, Brainy Baby and BabyFirstTV for falsely and deceptively marketing their media as educational for babies. The complaint is under review. In recent months, Baby Einstein has deleted some of the references to educational benefits previously listed on its website and cited in CCFC’s complaint, but explicit claims about developmental benefits remain. Baby Einstein also continues to benefit from the impression created by its name and its success in marketing the company as a producer of educational videos for babies.
Iger’s letter criticized the study by Fred Zimmerman, Dimitri Christakis and Andrew Meltzoff, for not distinguishing between different types of baby video content citing “studies of infant viewing (not even mentioned in the report) which find that the specific nature of content and the way it is consumed are vitally important” and complains that the study did not examine “the unique attributes of ‘Baby Einstein’ videos.” In fact, only one published study to-date has found that different content has different effects on infants and this study was done on only 51 babies, has never been replicated, and had nothing to do with Baby Einstein. No published study has ever found that the ‘unique attributes’ of Baby Einstein have any developmental benefits.
Iger’s letter also states:
“We strongly believe that our "Baby Einstein" videos provide a positive experience for children and families, one which encourages parent-child interaction and provides children with enriching and stimulating images and sounds drawn from real life."
But Baby Einstein has not provided any research demonstrating that their videos are “enriching” or “stimulating” for babies or that the videos do, in fact, promote parent-child interaction. In fact, the videos are designed to be used to be used without the need for parental interaction. Each DVD has a “repeat play” feature which allows children to watch it repeatedly without parents having to push the play button each time. In its FTC complaint, CCFC cited parent testimonials featured on the Baby Einstein website that touted the videos efficacy as a baby sitter, not a tool for parent interaction.
“Whether or not to expose their babies to screen media is an important decision for parents,” added Dr. Linn. “They need more than marketing hype about baby videos. Parents deserve solid information.”
 Rideout, V. (2007) Parents, Children and Media: A Report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation, page. 15.
 Zimmerman, F.J., Christakis, D.A., Meltzoff, A.N. (2007) Television and DVD/video viewing in children younger than 2 years. Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine. 161(5): 473-9.
 For example:
The product description of “Baby Mozart” video (appropriate for ages 1 month to 4 years) refers to the product as creating a “multisensory learning experience for parents, infants, and toddlers.”http://disneyshopping.go.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/DSIProductDisplay?catalogId=10002&storeId=10051&productId=1114068&langId=-1&categoryId=11761&catalogFromSearch=10002.
The product description of “Baby Wordsworth” (ages 9 months and up) refers to the product as an “engaging discovery of language” that “exposes toddlers to familiar objects” and features “[s]pecial guest Marlee Matlin [who] introduces little ones to the concept of non-verbal communication.” http://disneyshopping.go.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/DSIProductDisplay?catalogId=10002&storeId=10051&productId=1184941&langId=-1&categoryId=15584
The product description of “Baby da Vinci” (6 months and up) claims that “[L]ittle ones will learn to identify their head, shoulders, knees, toes and more in three languages!”http://disneyshopping.go.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/DSIProductDisplay?catalogId=10002&storeId=10051&productId=1166722&langId=-1&categoryId=15584.
 One testimonial said, “[The videos] have been almost like a babysitter to me, while I shower or wash the dishes, I can just pop in a video and he is completely glued to the television for the whole duration of the show. I think Baby Einstein has revolutionized the idea of a parent letting his or her child watch television.” Another consumer wrote to Baby Einstein, “thanks to you, I get to take a shower every day, knowing that she is in good company.” See the complaint, p. 10. After CCFC filed its complaint, Baby Einstein removed this section from its website.