Recent headlines on the topic of “baby TV,” most of which damned Baby Einstein specifically, and, by association, all baby media, and by further association all parents who ever used or even thought of using a baby video with their child, would lead you to believe that all screentime is harmful or simply a waste of time. Others, including many academic and child development voices, argue that baby TV is not a black and white proposition.
New research suggests that appropriately designed content can result in learning as well as in increases in real world interactions. It also challenges the somewhat simplistic assumption that if we just turned off the TV all would be right in the world of parenting and child growth and development.
One of the more interesting facts in the current debate over “baby TV” is that all programming created for the under-two set is being lumped together. In some ways, that’s like saying all books, all music, all toys are the same.
The most recent research indicates the opposite to be true and reflects what parents already know: CONTENT MATTERS. The real issues are ones of moderation–making sure that you limit the amount of screen time; content–looking for programming that a baby is capable of not only attending to but understanding; and context–using TV like any other developmental experience for your child…talk about it, describe it, play along–use it to frame your natural interactions.
Damning the medium itself does not help us to understand how, when and why it might be an effective tool. We live in a highly media and screen-centric world. Our goal is to better understand the effective and responsible role of media in all of our lives…and we know now that what’s on the screen and how it’s presented can and does make a difference. That’s what we need to focus on.Unlike so many baby DVDs that simply display collections of images or are akin to video flash cards, our “adventures” feature eebee, the baby’s baby, along with real babies and real grown-ups engaged in real-world, hands-on play. Rather than an “adventure” being about the “seasons,” or “animals,” each adventure is based on a play curriculum. They are social. And babies are social learners. For example, eebee and friends play with water, paper and boxes, light and shadow, rolling and sliding, making music, building and un-building, or filling and dumping and grown-ups assist, describe and play along–just like in the real-world and just like the developmental research and experts suggest.
The Parents’ Choice Foundation says our approach is “much more engaging than typical DVDs aimed at cultivating geniuses, this is a guide for cultivating good parents.”
We know that watching is no substitute for actual experience, but observing and modeling are often the first step to doing—for babies and for parents.
We want to not only engage babies, but inspire parents as well. Our goal is to be a catalyst for real-world play, to focus on the foundational skills babies can only build through experience, and to celebrate the natural everyday interactions with parents that are essential for learning.The exciting and satisfying result of this baby- and play-centered approach is the countless reports from families who describe how they are not only playing and interacting with their babies during an “adventure,” but before and after as well. Hearing these stories, receiving baby pictures, and knowing that we are a playful addition to a parent’s arsenal of learning tools are what truly inspires us.
Dr. Kathy Hirsch-Pasek, author of Einstein Never Used Flashcards, says “After decades of research, scientists and child development experts have come to a clear conclusion: Play is the best way for children to learn.” Yet Hirsh-Pasek is also an academic advisor for eebee’s adventures. Hirsh-Pasek says, “eebee’s adventures sparkle with a creativity that shows how the magic of everyday moments can become extraordinary learning opportunities.”
Hirsh-Pasek believes that video content that can “come off the screen and onto the living room floor” might have the potential to prompt real interactions between a parent and child and therefore, could make a difference for both parent and baby. She acknowledges that more research needs to be done on the topic..
Dr. Deborah Linebarger, a children’s media research scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, echoes Hirsh-Pasek’s point of view, and has been at the forefront of conducting research that is both longitudinal and that looks at what’s actually on the screen. “If what’s on the screen reflects a baby’s world and the types of situations a child might naturally be observing, then there’s the likelihood that very young children can understand it and potentially learn from it,” she says.
The reality is that babies, in general, are social learners. Babies get a lot of stimulation from a lot of very different stimuli…people, pets, books, music, toys, boxes, keys, your glasses, your hair, your clothing, pots, pans, doors… and videos. Nevertheless, they need you, their first teacher (and favorite toy) to help them make sense of the world and build knowledge and skills. If moderate co-viewing of appropriate content results in babies and parents smiling, laughing, talking, singing, dancing, and playing, before, during or after viewing, isn’t that, after all, exactly what the doctors ordered?
**on several occasions the press has referred to eebee as “the Un-baby Einstein.”