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Disney vs. the University of Washington: Who's right?

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Published: August 14, 2007 at 9:04 PM

[Okay, it's off the theme park topic, but I've been following the story with great interest, so... what the heck. Enjoy!- Robert]

This is a story that, to my eyes at least, goes under 'Bizarre, but unsurprising." It seems that Disney has asked (in a letter) that the University of Washington retract certain statements in a study they did which, supposedly, showed that DVD's along the lines of "Baby Einstein" and "Brainy Babies" (both apparently Disney brands) could actually impede development of language skills in early years rather than boosting them.

Here's a link to the Seattle P-I story:

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/327454_babytv14.html

And here's one to the full text of the letter that Disney's Robert Iger sent to Mark Emmert, president of the UoW.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/327427_letter14ww.html

And, finally, here's a link to the story at the University's local newsletter, along with E-mail links for more info.

http://uwnews.washington.edu/ni/article.asp?articleID=35898

I've not yet had a chance to read more than the P-I article, so I'm not prepared to go into a full discourse on this. I do, however, find it most interesting that Disney would resort to corporate-level counterattacks instead of commissioning a study of their own. If they truly believe in their product, then they should be completely unafraid to submit it for an independent study.

Happy reading.

Readers' Opinions

From Mostly Anonymous on August 15, 2007 at 5:20 PM
As a parent, I'm really disappointed in Disney. It's bad enough to sell videos targeted at babies, it's even more shameful to try and defend it.

This study can't be the first - I had already read a couple of years ago that watching television and videos slows language development.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended for a while that there should be no "screen time" before the age of 2. And now that my son is 2, I can really understand why. We didn't let him watch much television when he was young, but when we did he was hypnotized. Around 2, his behavior changed dramatically - he started reacting to what he was seeing on the screen. He'll now talk about what he's seeing, and jump up and down when he sees the Sesame Street kids jump up and down.

A family-oriented company like Disney should know better. I see no problem with selling the videos, but they shouldn't be marketed as being for kids under the age of two. In fact, wouldn't it be responsible to put a disclaimer on the box stating that the AAP does not recommend allowing children under the age of 2 to watch videos?

It's hard to believe this is the same company that is cutting out smoking from their motion pictures!

From Anthony Murphy on August 15, 2007 at 6:07 PM
While I do not agree with the U of W's supposed findings, I still do not think Disney should impede at all. Its a free country. Yeah, its pretty crummy for this to happen to Disney, but if they are smart, they would hire their own experts to rebut the findings of U of W.


And to the idea of there being a video aimed towards under the age of two, what is wrong with that. True, there are many problems with watching TV, but it depends on what is on the TV. TV can be a very good learning tool. The Einstein Brand also makes CDS which Leading Experts say will help the developing minds. I think some Dr. are giving out "red herrings" especially in ADD diagnosis and if your child is a little heavy, they must have diabetes. Also, what about Sesame Street or the Telletubbies. They are targeted to young children especially the Telletubbies. After seeing both that and Einstein, I would stick to Einstein.


Still, this isn't difficult for Disney, just hire a rebuttal group.

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