Saturday, October 24, 2009

Promises, promises

Baby Einstein, the mesmerizing visual babysitter that parents have been relying on and feeling good about since 1997, is now offering refunds. Refunds you ask? Are the disks disintegrating? Evincing built-in obsolescence? No, not at all.

Baby Einstein is offering refunds to all those parents whose children did not become geniuses after gazing hour after hour wide-eyed and slack-jawed at animation and jingles set to the melodies of Beethoven and Mozart.

Shockingly, it turns out you can't plop your child in a swing in front of the TV and expect that the child you take out of the swing will be, for lack of a better metaphor, Einstein. Indeed, not only are the videos not flowers for Algernon, they are closer to poison in the well. Far from beneficial, "studies show that television exposure at ages 1 through 3 is associated with attention problems at age 7," not to mention "the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all for children under 2."

The Walt Disney Company acquired the business in 2001 and are now on the hook to refund up to $15.99 to each household who purchased their DVDs between 2004 and 2009. Even that doesn't seem to be enough to motivate a change in the labeling, which not only still claims developmental benefits (all without using the forbidden word, "educational"), it also states that the videos are intended for babies 9 months and up. Hey, what do those pediatricians know anyway?

Now, my 5 year old niece is a veritable Einstein — if you don't believe me, ask her to quote any part of The Princess Bride. Spooky. Or to name like 100 extinct species of animals. Seriously. — and I don't know when she started watching TV or how much. But I'm pretty sure she could see right through Baby Einstein's new “enhanced consumer satisfaction guarantee.”

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