Do babies learn from baby media?


Millions of dollars of instructional videos for infants have been sold to hopeful parents in the past decade, many promising accelerated learning. While children may enjoy watching such products, are there any real educational benefits, or are they just “electronic babysitters”?

To examine the validity of the videos’ claimed benefits, researchers from the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University looked at the number of words that 12- to 18-month-olds picked up from a best-selling DVD. Four groups of parents and children were involved: In the first, parents and children watched the programming together five or more times a week for four weeks. In the second, the children watched the video on their own. In the third, infants didn’t watch the DVD; instead the parents taught them words that were part of the video’s instructional material. Finally, a control group did not watch the video or receive any special instruction. Children were tested on their knowledge of the words in the video before and after the experiment.

The results of the 2010 study, “Do Babies Learn from Baby Media?” include:

  • Children who viewed the DVD did not learn any more words than the group that didn’t watch it at all.
  • The highest level of learning occurred in the group in which parents taught their children the target words during everyday activities.
  • Parents who liked the DVD tended to overestimate how much their children had learned from it.

The study’s researchers concluded that, despite the claims of makers of videos and DVDs aimed at children, infants learn relatively little from instructional videos.

Tags: children, consumer affairs, technology, parenting

Last updated: December 1, 2010


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Citation: DeLoache, Judy S.; et al. "Do Babies Learn From Baby Media?" Psychological Science, November, 2010, Vol. 21, No. 11, 1570-1574. DOI: 10.1177/0956797610384145