Disney, which owns Baby Einstein, is offering a refund or exchange for any DVD bought in the last 5 years. DVD's can be returned to Disney for $15 or exchanged for another Baby Einstein product. No proof of purchase is necessary. This move came after Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood threatened a class-action lawsuit for false advertising claims made by the videos' packaging. These videos were originally marketed as educational, although Disney has since dropped that labeling.
This is a victory for groups trying to limit children's TV exposure, especially children less than 2 years of age. There have been no studies showing benefits to children under 2 watching "educational" programming. In fact, contrary to Disney's original claims that the videos could teach vocabulary to young children, multiple studies have shown the opposite to be true. There appears to be an inverse relationship between verbal development and hours of television watched. In Australia this month, the government has gone so far at to recommend a ban on television watching for children under 2, stating that TV watching "can stunt their language development and shorten their attention span."
In today's society, it seems almost impossible to not have children under two watch any TV, but it is important to remember that TV watching is a learned habit. Children who watch TV on a regular basis quickly start to "ask" to watch TV, either verbally or for younger children by pointing to the television. This should not be mistaken for a signal that TV is good for them. Children get far more out of interacting with their parents or even playing by themselves then watching television. While watching an occasional television show will not have life long detrimental effects on your toddler, it is important to remember that any time spent mindlessly in front of a TV is time not spent doing something else more educational and useful to their development, such as reading.
Reading to infants and having books around the house has been shown to increase a child's vocabulary. Additionally, children who have been read to from a young age often enjoy leafing through books by themselves even before they can read. Allowing your children to learn to spend time by themselves with books can have the added benefit of providing some of the down time parents are often seeking when they turn on the television for their little ones.
For additional information on media and children visit Ask the Mediatrician.