Baby Einstein flunks out

Ashland parents seem to be ahead of the curve when it comes to babies and television.

A study from the University of Washington earlier this month reported that children younger than 16 months who watch Baby Einstein and similar videos or DVDs develop vocabulary more slowly than those who don't. Ashland parents say they already limit or prohibit videos and television before age two, including Baby Einstein.

"I don't use them," said Shannon Clery, who has two young children. "Research has shown that TV before the age of 2 is detrimental to their language development."

Clery just began showing her 2 1/2-year-old son select programs such as Sesame Street and National Geographic nature videos.

"I probably would have waited even longer if I didn't have a newborn," she said.

Sales of Baby Einstein videos in Ashland dropped so much that Tree House Books stopped stocking them two years ago, said owner Muriel Johnson.

"There wasn't enough to them," Johnson said. "I didn't think they were worth carrying." Tree House sold a video entitled Baby Shakespeare, which Johnson said had pastoral scenes and poetry, but none that was actually written by Shakespeare. Other videos in the series contain slow-moving images and music, but few, if any, words.

Maribeth Beaudoin used a similar video, with puppets, music and no words, when her children were young, but only once every few weeks after they had reached their second birthday. Her two kids are in elementary school now, and she said she hasn't seen any negative affects.

"I'm definitely not into TV, video or computers, even at this age," she said. "I agree you shouldn't put babies in front of a TV... it's okay in moderation after a certain age."

Education and development consultant Paula Lynam said a video could be acceptable if parents are desperate for a break, but only as a last resort.

"They get in the way of children's natural development," she said. "Our brain is developed through movement which does not include sitting in front of a screen in any way, shape or form."

The university study found that infants understood an average of six to eight fewer words for every hour per day spent watching programs, compared to infants who did not watch them. The same scientists conducted an earlier study that found 40 percent of 3-month-old infants regularly watch television, DVDs or videos. age 2, 90 percent of children are watching.

Lynam said even after 2 years old, children should not watch much, if any, television.

"Kids learn through imitation and we need to find them things that are worthy of imitation to learn from," she said. "If kids are having free play with family or free play outside, and parents are making sure they eat healthy food, if those things are all in place, kids are not going to want screen time."

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