Last week every news outlet was reporting that videos, namely the very popular brand Baby Einstein, were bad for infant development. They went on to say that they may actually delay language development in toddlers and could be overstimulating.
The negative press has probably impacted the sales of the videos and related products. The Walt Disney Co., who owns the Baby Einstein brand, called on the University of Washington on Monday to retract a news release of a study on videos for infants, calling it “misleading, irresponsible and derogatory.”
In a letter to UW President Mark Emmert, Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger said the release misrepresented the underlying study, distorted its findings and ignored its shortcomings.
“In short, the university’s press release was grossly unfair, extremely damaging, and, to be blunt, just plain wrong in every conceivable sense,” Iger wrote.
Officials at the University of Washington are reviewing Iger’s letter, which was made public Monday, and planned to talk to the paper’s authors, Frederick Zimmerman, Dimitri Christakis and Andrew Meltzoff, according to a statement released through the UW public affairs office. The Journal of Pediatrics published their research.
On Monday, Iger called Emmert. The university president said the conversation was cordial and amicable. Iger did not threaten legal action, Emmert said.
“First of all, I made clear that we supported and stood behind our faculty’s research. It was research that was well-conducted and published in one of the most important” pediatrics journals, Emmert said.
At issue is the news release, and the UW will review it over the next couple of days to check if it accurately reflects the underlying research, Emmert said. One of the study’s authors worked with a public affairs writer in creating the news release, Emmert said.
Besides Baby Einstein, the release also mentions Brainy Baby. Both companies produce DVDs intended for infants.
In the letter, the Disney CEO offered a detailed critique of the news release. He pointed out that while the study claimed to rely on surveys of 1,008 parents, only 215 of the babies age 8 to 16 months watched TV, and he highlighted that the study was based on telephone surveys, not on observing infants.
“Our assessment, based on what we have been able to learn thus far, is that its methodology is doubtful, its data seem anomalous and the inferences it posits unreliable,” Iger wrote.
Disney believes that the study did not take into consideration the interactive nature of the videos and related products or control for the differing rates of development among infants.
The disputed news release said overuse of baby videos and DVDs may slow the acquisition of vocabulary in babies ages 8 months to 16 months. It also said that parents hoping to help boost the learning of language by their babies may want to limit how much their children are exposed to videos, mentioning Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby.
My son watches all of these videos and LOVES them. He enjoys the puppets and music. He likes the noises the animals make and mimics those noises back to us. He can point out a Panda, Elephant, Koala bear, Kangaroo and Flamingo from sight.
We don’t let him watch them night and day, but just a few periods throughout the day. Everything is moderation…