I’m Going to Have a Heart Attack and Die from “Not-Surprise”

Filed under:Mothering,Television — posted by Anwyn on August 27, 2007 @ 10:36 am

The shoddy science behind the study that said Baby Einstein was bad for the baby. Study, quoted from Time:

These products had the strongest detrimental effect on babies 8 to 16 months old, the age at which language skills are starting to form. “The more videos they watched, the fewer words they knew,” says Christakis. “These babies scored about 10% lower on language skills than infants who had not watched these videos.”

Strongest detrimental effect certainly implies that the effect was negative across the board, with the strongest negative in babies eight to sixteen months old. But no! From Junk Science:

Baby DVDs and videos weren’t associated with reduced vocabulary development among the study’s 17- to 24-month-olds. For the older toddlers, watching baby DVDs and videos correlated with a similar positive effect on vocabulary development as story-telling and music-listening.

Did the alleged adverse effect of baby DVDs and videos disappear with age or was it entirely bogus to start with?

The researchers admitted in their study’s fine print that they didn’t directly test whether baby DVDs and videos had an actual positive or negative effect on vocabulary acquisition. They also quietly acknowledged that the study’s correlative nature “precluded” drawing causal inferences and that their results could have been affected by biased and incomplete data.

While they remembered or were compelled by the Journal of Pediatrics’ editors to note these “major limitations” in their write-up, Drs. Zimmerman and Christakis seemed to suffer mental lapses when it came to statements they made in media interviews.

And why let a few facts including the researchers’ history of alarming parents about children watching TV, DVD and videos (more than 10 publications since 2004) get in the way of their scare?

I didn’t blog it when the study was making the news a few weeks ago because this mommy simply didn’t care and suspicioned there might be more to the story than the study said–The Bean watched Baby Einstein videos for an hour a day from the time he was six months old, and at three and a half, he could read (yes, read independently books he’d never seen before, not just recite books he knew by heart (yes, he is amazing! Thank you!), although of course he did that too).

Basically, the study called some parents up and asked them how often their children watched these videos. And then, as “the fine print” says, according to the Junk Science article, “didn’t directly test whether baby DVDs and videos had an actual positive or negative effect on vocabulary acquisition.”

A test that didn’t test what it said it tested. Who knew? Moms knew. Moms know that no matter what studies say, the problem comes if you use TV or whatever to replace a significant amount of interaction with your baby instead of in addition to it. And a study like this simply takes the most alarmist route in insisting that must be the case in any household where babies watch videos. How insulting that is to your average parent, who bends over backwards to work with the baby for the baby’s optimal development.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace