Baby Einstein offers refunds for criticized DVDs

    Brain booster or digital baby sitter? Researchers and consumer advocates have long criticized producers of educational baby toys and DVDs for overstating their products’ value. And now The Baby Einstein Company is offering refunds to parents for DVDs purchased before 2004.

    Brain booster or digital baby sitter? Researchers and consumer advocates have long criticized producers of educational baby toys and DVDs for overstating their products’ value. And now The Baby Einstein Company is offering refunds to parents for DVDs purchased before 2004.
    (Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielygo/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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    Parent blogs and list-servs are abuzz over refunds offered for Baby Einstein DVDs. Dissatisfied parents can now return the items, which were long touted as valuable educational tools. The decision by the Walt Disney Company, which owns the lucrative Baby Einstein brand, comes after lawsuits challenged the educational claims of the product.

    Kathy Hirsh Pasek studies early childhood development at Temple University. She says researchers have tried to stem the tide of a booming baby media market all along:

    Pasek: We have known for years that especially for children under three that our little guys are just not learning language from these video tapes, yet they are being sold as educational toys that promote learning.

    Consumer advocates say the offer comes after they threatened a class action lawsuit regarding the educational claims made by the company. They say those claims aren’t backed by research.

    She says the marketing messages of the multi-million dollar baby media industry are confusing for parents:

    Pasek: By plopping them in front of a television we’re not doing anything that is educationally sound, certainly at least for the 3 and under set, sometimes sitting down and just having a conversation is the richest way for children to learn language.

    Marsha Gerdes is a child psychologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She says when kids watch a program when they are bored rather than entertaining themselves, they are missing an opportunity for learning.

    Gerdes: Parents are quick to turn on the TV when their child is bored or can’t seem to find something to play. But that process of not having anything to do, and finding something to play is a learning process for young children. And children who learn how to do that, what we later call executive functioning, become good students in the long run.

    The Baby Einstein Company states that the refund offer is part of its regular customer satisfaction plan.

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