Parents hoping to raise baby Einsteins by using infant educational videos are actually creating baby Homer Simpsons, according to a new study released today.
For every hour a day that babies 8 to 16 months old were shown such popular series as "Brainy Baby" or "Baby Einstein," they knew six to eight fewer words than other children, the study found.
Parents aiming to put their babies on the fast track, even if they are still working on walking, each year buy hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of the videos.
Unfortunately it's all money down the tubes, according to Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Christakis and his colleagues surveyed 1,000 parents in Washington and Minnesota and determined their babies' vocabularies using a set of 90 common baby words, including mommy, nose and choo-choo.
The researchers found that 32% of the babies were shown the videos, and 17% of those were shown them for more than an hour a day, according to the study in the Journal of Pediatrics.
The videos, which are designed to engage a baby's attention, hop from scene to scene with minimal dialogue and include mesmerizing images, like a lava lamp.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children under 24 months.
The Brainy Baby Co. and Walt Disney Co., which markets the "Baby Einstein" videos, did not return calls from the Los Angeles Times.
Christakis said children whose parents read to them or told them stories had larger vocabularies.
"I would rather babies watch 'American Idol' than these videos," Christakis said, explaining that there is at least a chance their parents would watch with them -- which does have developmental benefits.