Child Development Field Research
Child development occurs without interference. However, the development process may be influenced by the introduction of toys, television, and other means of play. Companies often advertise that their products can increase toddlers’ development in areas of growth, such as physical, social, and cognitive. It has been found that some cognitive enhancing products do not enhance child development as it was advertised to do. One such product is the Baby Einstein DVD set. Herein, the Baby Einstein DVDs will be reviewed and discussed. The products claims will also be discussed as well as what research states about the relation between the introduction to the television to toddlers and cognitive development.
The Baby Einstein products are said to have a range of beneficial areas of stimulation that are introduced to children from one month to nearly three years of life. According to Baby Einstein (2013), the children are introduced to music “ranging from soothing, musical selections [that] engage baby’s sense of rhythm, pitch, and harmony” (para. 1). The children are also introduced to art through images that “are frequently drawn from the real world,” language by way of “words, written or spoken, [that are] presented in three languages,” nature because “babies are naturally fascinated by animals and where they live,” and shapes and numbers because they are“everywhere in babies’ lives” (Baby Einstein, 2013, para. 2-5). The most popular product is a 26 disk set of DVDs that comes in English, French, or Spanish. Each disk contains music, animated characters, and drawings that appeal to children six months of age to three years of age. This product claims to enhance cognitive, social, and language development. However, the company has been in many articles that are claiming that the introduction to television at such an early age is harmful or not productive, which contradicts the company’s claim that the product enhances cognitive development, social development, and language development.
The Issue or Concern
Some of the research revealed that “a 2010 study found no evidence that children ages one to two learned words highlighted in a Baby Einstein DVD” (Hoecker, 2014, para. 2). The same study found that regularly reading and playing with the children would produce better results. When asked, many “pediatricians discourage screen time for children younger than age two” (Hoecker, 2014, para. 2). The main issues that pediatricians had been the decreased time the parents or other caregivers took with the children when the children were engaged with the television. According to Hoecker (2014), the same or better results could be obtained by “talking, playing, singing, smiling, and reading” to the children (para. 3).
In another article, Frederick Zimmerman and Dr. Dimitri Christakis headed a research team at the University of Washington. In this study, they “found that with every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos” (Park, 2007, para. 2). It was determined that the “products had the strongest detrimental effect on babies eight to 16 months old, the age at which language skills are starting to form” (Park, 2007, para. 2).
The research provided mixed reviews. According to Berk (2010), children between 12 and 18 months “use deferred imitation skillfully to enrich their range of sensorimotor schemes” and they “retain modeled behaviors for at least several months, copy the actions of peers as well as adults, and imitate across a change in context—for example, enact at home a behavior learned at child care or on TV” (p. 157). This leads researchers to believe that some exposure to television to be a good addition to a developing child’s daily routine. However, according to Bavelier, Green, & Dye (2010), technology that is “specifically developed for the purpose of enhancing cognitive abilities, such as infant-directed media…may lead to no effects or, worse, may lead to unanticipated negative effects” (p. 693). So how is one to know if exposure is good or harmful to child development? The answer was revealed in the “negative association between viewing baby DVDs and language development score was found for the youngest children” which was concluded that “each hour of daily viewing/listening in this group was associated with a significant decrement in the pace of language development” (Bavelier et. al., 2010, p. 696). The result of this study was a staggering “17-point decrease” in language score (Bavelier et. al., 2010, p. 696).
The Baby Einstein Company claimed to add word recognition with the introduction of written words in their DVDs. However, according to Bavelier et. al. (2010), the “current research suggests that… babies exposed to DVDs designed to teach new words…show no evidence of specific word learning” and that it was “more worrisome… that some studies actually report negative effects” (p. 696). It is known that all of the studies are useful in determining the enhancement of cognitive, social, and language development in children; however, “whether direct via the child’s actions or indirect via environmental input, [it] is critical to understanding and learning from various stimuli” (Linebarger & Walker, 2005, p. 625). All of the environmental influences need to be taken into account. According to Linebarger & Walker (2005), these environmental influences “encompasses a wide variety of sources, including parents, family members, caregivers, and television” (p. 625). However, if it is proven that the children are spending, on average, two hours per day watching televisions they are at high risk and it is “critical to evaluate the developmental impact of this screen time” (Linebarger & Walker, 2005, p. 625).
Some studies have shown that children do retain information that they see on television, but this has only been discovered in children over 12 months of age. According to Linebarger & Walker (2005), although a “10 ½ month-old child pointed at Big Bird” from Sesame Street, another child who was 13 ½ months old “recognized a horse from Black Beauty, enthusiastically pointed at the horse, and repeated ‘baba, baba’ many times; and an 18 ½ month-old child pointed to a cat on Sesame Street and repeated ‘kitty’ many times” (p. 626). The main difference between the two older children and the 10 ½ month-old is the recognition and the enthusiasm in which they displayed when the characters where seen. In a study that was conducted “using data in the 1970s, researchers found that television exposure during the elementary school years (ages 5–11) was related to attention problems in adolescence” (Barr, Lauricella, Zack, & Calvert, 2010, p. 23). However, this study cannot be taken seriously because of the age of the data collected and the age of the children in the study; however, there may be enough information here to suggest additional testing at a future time. This future research could also encompass “a more integrative, comprehensive approach to the study of gender development” as well as concepts, such as “identity, preferences, and behavior, as well as a wide variety of factors that influence the development of these facets, including biology, cognitions, and social influences” (Martin, Ruble, & Szkrybalo, 2002, p. 903).
Evidence to Support the Product’s Claim
Although some studies do show that older children retain information they learn from DVDs and television, there is currently no clear evidence that cognitive, social, or language development can be enhanced using this method of learning. The risk of developmental impairments is not worth exposing children between the ages of three months to 12 months to television or extended screen time. Pediatricians claim that engaging in play with the children is the best method of teaching young children and helping them develop. Actions and behaviors, such as smiling, playing, singing, and so forth are the best known developmental proper behaviors for children of these ages. Reading to children between the ages of birth and five years of age has been a proven method of language building skills. This can also build a bond between parent or caregiver and child that may have been missed if the child is engaged in screen time.
Code of Conduct
In the event that a licensed psychologist publically endorsed a product with no empirical evidence supporting its claims would be held accountable for his or her actions according to the Code of Ethics. This would be especially true if the psychologist was receiving a percentage of the income that was generated by the sale of the product to parents. The Code of Conduct plainly states that public statements include but are not limited to paid or unpaid advertising, product endorsements, grant applications, licensing applications, other credentialing applications, brochures, printed matter, directory listings, personal resumes or curricula vitae, or comments for use in media such as print or electronic transmission, statements in legal proceedings, lectures and public oral presentations, and published materials (American Psychological Association, 2010, Section 5.01, p. 7)
The psychologist could be at risk for losing his or her license if he or she is not very careful how he or she goes about conducting his or her behavior wen it relates to endorsing products. The first thing would be to do independent research for the product and the second would be not to collect proceeds from any sales of the product.
Although there are many products on the market, not all will produce the developmental results that they are advertised to. Such is the case of the Baby Einstein DVD collection. There are many studies that have been conducted to determine if early exposure to television and screen time would be beneficial to cognitive, social, and language development in children four to 12 months of age. Although there are few studies that show children over one year of age retain information that in interesting that is found in television shows, there is no evidence that younger children have or will retained this information or have any future developmental advantages.
American Psychological Association. (2010). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Retrieved from the University of Phoenix materials PSYCH600 Website.
Baby Einstein. (2013). Philosophy music. Art. Language. Nature. Life. Retrieved from http://kidsii.com/babyeinstein/about/philosophy
Barr, R., Lauricella, A., Zack, E., & Calvert, S. L. (2010). Infant and early childhood exposure to adult-directed and child-directed television programming: Relations with cognitive skills at age four. Merrill – Palmer Quarterly, 56(1), 21-48. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/230106685?accountid=35812
Bavelier, D., Green, C. S., & Dye, M. W. G. (2010). Children, wired: For better and for worse. Neuron, 67(5), 692-701. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2010.08.035
Berk, L. E. (2010). Development through the Lifespan (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Hoecker M.D., J. L. (2014). Infant and toddler health. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/infant-and-toddler-health/expert-answers/baby-einstein/faq-20058099
Linebarger, D. L., & Walker, D. (2005). Infants’ and toddlers’ television viewing and language outcomes. The American Behavioral Scientist, 48(5), 624-645. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/214765680?accountid=35812
Martin, C. L., Ruble, D. N., & Szkrybalo, J. (2002). Cognitive theories of early gender development. Psychological Bulletin, 128(6), 903-933. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.12 8.6.903
Park, A. (2007). Baby Einsteins: Not so smart after all. Retrieved from http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1650352,00.html
Featured image: Imageck. (2015). Cartoon children growing up. Retrieved from http://imageck.com/92989393-cartoon-children-growing-up.html
Image source for Baby Einstein products: Prissy Mommy Reviews & Giveaways. (Posted: March 29, 2011). Fun times at baby Einstein’ discovery day play date! Retrieved from http://prissyreviews.com/2011/03/fun-times-at-baby-einsteins-discovery-day-play-date.html
Image source for: baby looking at the television: Park, A. (Posted: August 6, 2007). Baby Einsteins: Not so smart after all. Retrieved from http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1650352,00.html
Image source for baby stages: Washburn, B. (n.d.). Child development. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/a/bvsd.org/mrs-thiel-home/home/showcase/domain2
Image source for ethics sign: Greslard, O. (February 5, 2014). Code of ethics for customs officials launched. Retrieved from http://www.eurodouane.com/code-of-ethics-for-customs-officials-launched/
Image source for Sesame Street characters: Klimas, L. (Posted: October 18, 2011). Studies say turn off Baby Einstein, Sesame Street under age 2. Retrieved from http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2011/10/18/studies-say-turn-off-baby-einstein-sesame-street-under-age-2/