November 23, 2009

The Fraud Isn't Baby Einstein

baby einstein.JPG
it will teach skills he'll apply for decades to come


Nothing more powerful, not lava or sunspots or the hem of a woman's skirt, than self-righteous anger backed by the possibility you weren't wrong.


Parent alert: the Walt Disney Company is now offering refunds for all those "Baby Einstein" videos that did not make children into geniuses....the unusual refunds appear to be a tacit admission that they did not increase infant intellect.

The key issue is their marketing as "educational," a term which Disney dropped in 2006 after complaints by the FTC.

"The Walt Disney Company's entire Baby Einstein marketing regime is based on express and implied claims that their videos are educational and beneficial for early childhood development," a letter from the lawyers said,
What makes that claim false?

calling those claims "false because research shows that television viewing is potentially harmful for very young children."
Hold on: are you telling me that the Federal Trade Commission ordered refunds based on that??

Consider how hard it was for tobacco makers to be forced to do anything despite the science being everywhere.  There isn't anything conclusive about TV watching.  I'm not saying TV is good, I'm saying wow, they can wreck a company over "some research suggests?"

The FTC response was slightly different:

Upon careful review of the matter, including non-public information submitted to the staff, we have determined not to recommend enforcement action at this time.

We note that certain claims-- such as that a product "introduces" or "resents" or "exposes" children to certain content-- are unlikely, by themselves, to convey an educational benefit...
And as for TV:

To the extent the existing research does point in any direction, it suggests that television is an inferior means to teaching very young children compared to live demonstration...additional research is needed...

In other words, Disney gave the refund because not because the FTC made them, but because there was a shakedown, in the form of a potential class action lawsuit, in progress.  That's America.

II.

In every article, there is a jab at the parents who bought them.  "Did you really think it was going to make them smarter?  Idiots!"

It seeems that what was under attack wasn't Baby Einstein, but the type of parent who would buy Baby Einstein-- middle to upper middle class new parents, unsure of their skills, looking to give their kid any possible advantage since they're not sure exactly what to do to raise a  kid.  Pre-school ballet, soccer, violin,  Mandarin, Gymboree-- throw everything at him.  "Don't these idiots know none of that works?  That's why I didn't do it."

USA Today:

The popularity of Baby Einstein also reflects a misunderstanding about the true nature of genius. Just a little life experience, even a few days in a regular U.S. school, demonstrates that geniuses are usually born with innate gifts that no DVD can impart.

In other words: duh, and phew.

But no one was shooting for genius-- they were shooting for smarter, or at least not as damaging as TV.  And if you think that "smart" isn't affected by even haphazard early interventions, then you're insane.  How's that for semantic blurring?

III.

There's plenty of criticisms to level against overinvolved parents, but they are trivial in comparison to the main one: they check out when the kid is in 1st grade.  Once the kid hits grade school, the whole ship is put on autopilot, and the two biggest forces in a kid's life from 6 to 18 are school and "the media"-- TV, internet, video games.  I dare you: go and log, on paper, a kid's typical day.

This applies equally to lower income kids, for whom school often represents their only chance; to rich kids in private schools, whose parents figure if it costs $20k a year...

Trusting a ridiculous public school system to prepare for an even more ridiculous college Ponzi scheme.  "I got a B.S.!"  Aces.

Early interventions-- both in education and in psychiatry are important in their own way.  But the focus on early intervention is a way of avoiding the hard work: turning teens into adults.  That's where the money is. I mean isn't.

---

http://twitter.com/thelastpsych





Comments

You have, unfortunately, ye... (Below threshold)

November 23, 2009 12:27 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

You have, unfortunately, yet again confused the words THEN and Than in your very first sentence.

Alone's response: Dammit. Fixed.

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For pity's sake Anon, is th... (Below threshold)

November 23, 2009 1:13 PM | Posted by Jack: | Reply

For pity's sake Anon, is that the best you can do?

Brilliant article once again. I never know whether to cheer the fact that someone actually understands the modern world or just cry at the facts.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 1 (7 votes cast)
"You have, unfortunately, y... (Below threshold)

November 23, 2009 1:18 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

"You have, unfortunately, yet again confused the words THEN and Than in your very first sentence."

No, YOU my friend have too much time on your hands.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -2 (10 votes cast)
I'd question how "over invo... (Below threshold)

November 23, 2009 2:11 PM | Posted by brainchild: | Reply

I'd question how "over involved" parents who rely upon videos - even Baby Einstein videos - really are (not that all parents don't resort to video/tv distractions at times, the lie parents tell themselves in the Baby Einstein case is about the act of turning off to your child and turning on the TV...that it's in the child's best interest and not serving a parental need/desire). Are they aspirational? Certainly. Are they overly focused on how their child's intelligence/success reflects upon them and producing a (designer) accessory or child object that will make them look good? Certainly. Do they think playing a video can make up for their lack of engagement as parents? Quite possibly.

I find it interesting that Alone seems apologetic/blind towards this kind of parental narcissism - in fact sees it as good and assumes good intentions - after the post about Black men volunteering. It starts to look a bit like these posts contain a class bias regarding who buys these videos and why! Considering that upwardly mobile and aspirational parents are the most likely to use their children as social objects that need to serve their aspirations, this seems a bit odd considering this blog's focus on narcissism!

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I like the college ponzi sc... (Below threshold)

November 23, 2009 3:13 PM | Posted by Roger: | Reply

I like the college ponzi scheme reference. I have been wondering how long it will be before a BS degree is completely worthless, and they have to make up something else to try and separate the haves from the have nots.

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The quote says:<bloc... (Below threshold)

November 23, 2009 6:59 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

The quote says:

We note that certain claims-- such as that a product "introduces" or "resents" or "exposes" children to certain content-- are unlikely, by themselves, to convey an educational benefit...

Should 'resents' be 'presents'?

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What I find curious is that... (Below threshold)

November 23, 2009 10:19 PM | Posted by JadedMDstudent: | Reply

What I find curious is that after 77 votes this article has a rating of 2.1 stars. Yet it pointed out something I'm sure most were not aware of and that is touched on many self induced issues with out educational system. I wonder if the numerous instances he pointed out pissed off a few more people than normal?

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Yet, it pointed out somethi... (Below threshold)

November 23, 2009 10:23 PM | Posted by JadedMDstudent: | Reply

Yet, it pointed out something I'm sure most were not aware of and IT touched on many self-induced issues with OUR education system. Sorry, I had to clarify my craptacular sentence structure.

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Damn you sir. You have off... (Below threshold)

November 24, 2009 3:14 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Damn you sir. You have officially turned my wife into a fangirl of an online blogger.

I hate you more because I'm not far off.

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The issue had nothing to do... (Below threshold)

November 24, 2009 4:09 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

The issue had nothing to do with whether video watching by infants is harmful. It was Disney's claim that watching Baby Einstein videos are beneficial with regards to learning and intellect.

FACT: No research exists that any of these videos are beneficial to children in terms of learning. If there is a "danger" to them, its that parents overutilize these videos instead of directly interacting with their children. The lack of direct parent-child interaction IS damaging, and that it supported by research.

The video packaging, therefore, was misleading. Thats what the FTC had a problem with and thats why Disney had to remove the wording they had.

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hi i am einstein i am disap... (Below threshold)

November 25, 2009 12:51 AM | Posted by einstein: | Reply

hi i am einstein i am disappoint

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -1 (3 votes cast)
A perceptive blog post ther... (Below threshold)

November 25, 2009 4:53 AM | Posted by Rachel Riggs: | Reply

A perceptive blog post there. I've been developing live play events and creative play activities for young children and I've made plenty of discoveries. Here are two -

Children want to actively play and learn and grow their imaginations by doing, not watching, and if they are watching they need to discuss and interpret it with those around them.

Parents are forgetting how to play with their children, and show good behavioural models of play, particularly in the richest and poorest brackets. We need more opportunities to play, simply and with joy.

http://www.twitter.com/imaginaryleaps

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monday evening, my preschoo... (Below threshold)

November 25, 2009 8:38 AM | Posted by medsvstherapy: | Reply

monday evening, my preschooler was playing in the mud. he played like he was gonna eat a mudpie. i encouraged him to taste it. he did. it apparently did not taste good. the next day, i saw this news story: kids should eat mud to grow up healthy. so i am now planning on marketing an upscale line of mud. surely this will be the next parenting phenomenon. he seems smarter already.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/6630394/Children-should-be-allowed-to-play-in-the-dirt-new-research-suggests.html

on sunday, my kid was running around with a sharp stick - a u.s. flag with the end broken off - and he fell and jabbed himself in the eye. surprisingly, he was ok. now, i am wondering how this might be the next parenting phenomenon. i am trying to disentangle his recent genius: is it the mud or the stick in the eye?


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If the Baby Einstein videos... (Below threshold)

November 30, 2009 12:03 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

If the Baby Einstein videos don't work, there's always Ritalin.

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Parents are forgetting how ... (Below threshold)

December 3, 2009 4:59 PM | Posted by AB: | Reply

Parents are forgetting how to play with their children?

huh? When historically did parents play with their children?

There is no harm in letting kids watch Baby Einstein because kids don't need parental interaction every minute. This idea that parents need to focus on being "engaged" with their children is a completely modern insanity.

I take care of my kids and I love them, which means I don't ignore them. Not all of the time. But if I love getting to cook dinner and they love watching little bears spin in a circle, this is a win-win.

I'm sure there is plenty of research that supports the idea that passively watching TV is bad their for child development. But what do the sociologists and psychologists WANT to be true??

Plato criticized books when they came out (http://faculty.berea.edu/pearcej/GSTR110/wk/Socrates-on-Technology.pdf) and good TV cartoons are better and more educational than good children's books.

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college as a ponzi scheme- ... (Below threshold)

December 14, 2009 7:51 PM | Posted by totalfailure: | Reply

college as a ponzi scheme- brilliant - that completely describes the college industry

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When did parents play with ... (Below threshold)

December 17, 2009 11:38 PM | Posted, in reply to AB's comment, by Carrot: | Reply

When did parents play with their children? Mine did. Not 24/7, but as often as they were able. The thing about intelligence is that it's all potential. You're born with a certain capacity that you can reach. How far you go has to do with the way that you are raised.

The problem with Baby Einstein videos, like Anon said, is not that they directly harm children- as television goes, they aren't half bad- but that some parents use it as a replacement for a baby sitter. Whenever the kid gets bored, they just plug in the same video. The kid doesn't get enough stimulation, and the parent feel less need to interact with their kids.

"Cartoons are better and more educational than good children's books." Really. Books teach children to READ. Reading stimulates the imagination- Television is passive. You use fewer calories watching television than you do sleeping- your brain isn't working as hard.

Regardless, the problem with baby einstein isn't that it doesn't teach, but that lazy parents think that the tapes are enough.

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Carrot - Well they don't di... (Below threshold)

December 18, 2009 11:26 AM | Posted, in reply to Carrot's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

Carrot - Well they don't directly harm infants per se but when they replace real life interaction it does cause developmental delays so using Baby Einstein videos instead of playing with your infant is harmful. The irony is that they promised to make a child smarter than they would be without the video when, in reality, using the video actually tends to slow down development (probably partly because parents use them to replace human interaction).

My parents also played with me, as did other relatives. I don't have children myself but all my friends play with their kids, as do I since I like most little people (and can be patient and compassionate with the ones who have shitty/narcissistic parents most of the time, those kids really need to know that there are people who see them as a person in the world and not just an object/narcissistic extension). It's actually very natural and normal behavior for parents to play with their kids - it's unnatural for them not to since play and interaction are important for proper brain development. Besides, how perverse is it to avoid the most fun part of having kids?

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LOL. that's good.... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2010 4:23 PM | Posted, in reply to medsvstherapy's comment, by Trei: | Reply

LOL. that's good.

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I usually find grammatical ... (Below threshold)

December 19, 2013 5:14 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Unsaintly Nicholas: | Reply

I usually find grammatical pedantry annoying, too, but Alone thought it was important enough to fix. And honestly, _how long_ do you think it took anon to notice the error and comment on it? Thirty seconds? Sixty? Damn man, if this is more time than you can spare, you must have mad bitches. Teach me.

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I am tired of this historic... (Below threshold)

December 19, 2013 5:21 PM | Posted, in reply to AB's comment, by Unsaintly Nicholas: | Reply

I am tired of this historicism. Just because TV came after books doesn't mean that TV is the continuation of a trend. The two mediums may have nothing in common, i.e. be totally unrelated except temporally. People who say "we've been criticizing technology forever" miss the point: just because some of those criticisms were wrong, doesn't mean that others aren't right.

Who knows, maybe humanity was better off without books. How would that make you feel?

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Infants and children don't ... (Below threshold)

August 1, 2014 2:14 AM | Posted, in reply to AB's comment, by AspieCatholicgirl: | Reply

Infants and children don't need parental interaction. That is true. They should be allowed to play on their own. However, such play should involve contact with real concrete objects; not contact with a TV screen.

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Pardon a mistake in the ear... (Below threshold)

August 1, 2014 2:22 AM | Posted, in reply to AspieCatholicgirl's comment, by AspieCatholicgirl: | Reply

Pardon a mistake in the earlier comment. I accidently said "infants and children don't need parental interaction." What I meant to say was "Infants and children don't need non-stop 24/7 parental interaction.

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Of course they need parenta... (Below threshold)

August 1, 2014 2:24 AM | Posted, in reply to AspieCatholicgirl's comment, by AspieCatholicgirl: | Reply

Of course they need parental interaction-it just doesn't have to be every moment of the day. The child gives cues that should be followed as to when he/she needs attention, and when he/she wants to engage in independant play.

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This is an excerpt from m... (Below threshold)

August 2, 2014 8:43 PM | Posted by Tru Harlow: | Reply

This is an excerpt from my blog
Www.curementalillness.wordpress.com
I am trying to spread awareness of the truth of dissociation.

The most effective methods of causing dissociation are believed to be those that consist of inflicting moderate amounts of pain over extended periods of time. Emotional trauma is also important.
The horrific experiences victims are exposed to result in their mind utilizing a defense mechanism called DISSOCIATION. Dissociation consists of the victims consciousness detaching from their bodies (or so it seems to them). The result is a euphoric floating feeling. DID caused by Beta programming only serves as the most drastic form of abuse which stimulates dissociation.

We can utilize this knowledge to show how any survivor of any level/type of abuse can be considered as having any measure of DID it is my proposal that many trauma survivors have on some level dissociation of self. Therapists must gain awareness of this fact and utilize techniques which can facilitate a unity between all senses of self. Self awareness can surmount once we confront past events which we are scared of. And the personal, familial and social ramifications of this endeavor may be great. But in order to create unity within one self, we must be self aware. We must gain confidence. We must be free.

I will be tracking my findings of my readings of Carl Jung, unconscious memories, dissociation, dissonance and therapeutic accounts on this blog. Please open your mind to new thoughts on treatment and the reality of DID in the majority of patients.

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