I’ve never owned a Baby Einstein video, nor checked one out from the library. And I am amazed at all of the videos that can be purchased or borrowed. Some claim to teach vocabulary; some claim to teach your infant foreign languages; some claim to develop musical abilities. Educational supplementation is a HUGE industry in our country, perhaps world-wide. Parents want what is best for their young children. If you, Parent, are like me, then you want your child to have opportunities that you never had growing up.
And there is nothing wrong with that.
But we have to be careful that we don’t buy (literally and figuratively) into the lies that media companies throw at us.
Judy S. DeLoach, along with her colleagues, has published research which seems to indicate that the infant media phenomenon is bogus, or at least not worth using to “try to get our children ahead”. Here is the abstract to her paper:
“In recent years, parents in the United States and worldwide have purchased enormous numbers of videos and DVDs designed and marketed for infants, many assuming that their children would benefit from watching them. We examined how many new words 12- to 18-month-old children learned from viewing a popular DVD several times a week for 4 weeks at home. The most important result was that children who viewed the DVD did not learn any more words from their monthlong exposure to it than did a control group. The highest level of learning occurred in a no-video condition in which parents tried to teach their children the same target words during everyday activities. Another important result was that parents who liked the DVD tended to overestimate how much their children had learned from it. We conclude that infants learn relatively little from infant media and that their parents sometimes overestimate what they do learn.”
When a father plays with a child, when a mother comforts a newborn, when a caregiver reads a book to a toddler, thousands of brain cells respond. Some brain cells are “turned on,” some connections are strengthened, and some new connections are made. Once cells are formed together in the womb to make a brain, the child’s brain is continually growing. Throughout the entire process of development, beginning before birth, the brain is affected by environmental conditions, including the kind of nourishment, care, surroundings and stimulation an individual receives.
The brain receives information through all five of the senses. If only one or two are used, such as in watching a video, the brain only learns partial information about a situation or experience. The nervous system is composed of billions of specialized cells called neurons. Neurons make connections with other neurons, enabling the brain to form complex thoughts and ideas, as well as, keep track of all the biological processes of life (digestion, respiratory, muscular, skeletal, and circulatory systems). Research shows that the synapses, or spaces between the axons and dendrites of the brain cells, actually decrease in number as children grow because the brain loses what it does not use. At 3 to 10 years of age, there are double the connections that the child will have as an adult. As a child, the brain is growing all the connections it can – and prunes what it doesn’t need.
So are videos bad? No, but they aren’t as good as these companies would like for you to think they are. After all, they want to make a buck off of you.
So what does all of this research mean? All it does is prove once again that the most important thing in a child’s life is his parents or caregivers. Infants need to feel, smell, watch, and respond to their moms and dads. The more total sensory experiences we can give our kids the better.
Do we throw the videos away or shove them in the closet? Not necessarily. Moms need a 30 minute break every now and then. But we, and I’m including myself in this, have to be sure we don’t get lazy in our parenting. On long hard days it’s so much easier to slip in the DVD than read a book with the kids. It’s much simpler to turn on the DVD in the car and not interact with the kids on the way home from day care.
Parents, we can do this! We can give our kids as much quality time as we can. And the longer I am a parent the more I realize how much I cannot parent on my own. However, you know that saying, “It takes a community to raise a child?” That’s hogwash in my opinion.
I’d rather have the Lord raise my child and lead me and give me wisdom to know what I need to do so my kids are prepared to interact and give to this world.
Our kids don’t need a community and they don’t need bright and cheery videos…
Parents, they need us.
**Brain info from ECD 102 from Tri-County Tech when I taught this class.