Since 1998, Disney’s "Baby Einstein" videos and DVDs has been aggressively marketed to parents of young children intent on increasing Junior’s intelligence. For ten years, children from three months to three years (the target group) have been glued to screens and the Disney Empire has raked in millions. A 2003 study found that one-third of all American babies aged between 6 months and two years had been exposed to a Baby Einstein video. Disney’s success has spawned several competitors who promise to give Junior a leg up in the music world, the sports world and maybe even the world of making millions with phony promises.
But the spurt in grey matter hasn’t materialized. Folks at the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood have been pressuring Baby Einstein for evidence that their materials were anything more than electronic baby sitters. Turning up the heat, the American Academy of Pediatrics, concerned with all the time infants are spending transfixed before television sets, has recommended no screen time. Under pressure, then, the Disney marketers are dropping the word "educational" from their advertising and providing refunds to disappointed parents.
While the $15.99 cheque from the Disney empire may appease the saddened parents of dull-eyed, TV-addicted kids, will this sop solve a larger problem? Will it lead parents to get more balanced goals for their children?
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