Alex Motrenko

Think you’re giving your infant a competitive edge by plopping him in front of the TV for some educational-video time? According to one new study, that’s not the case. In fact, you may actually be doing him more harm than good.

Frederick Zimmerman, a researcher at the University of Washington, worked with colleagues to gather information on the vocabularies of 8- to 16-month-olds, and how frequently they watched videos like Baby Einstein. After controlling for factors like parental education and socioeconomic status, the team found that for every hour per day spent watching the videos, kids’ vocabularies dropped by 17 percentile points relative to babies who didn’t watch the videos.

Zimmerman speculates that these programs may simply pacify children, rather than teach them anything. “It’s like empty calories for the mind,” Zimmerman told Science magazine. —Megan Miller


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