August 15, 2013: Mobile apps from toy companies do teach babies something, as all parents can attest: how to use a mobile app. Regarding everything else -- all other direct and indirect claims -- the research is, as today's Washington Post story by Cecelia Kang notes, "scant."
...as adults shell out for the convenience and the promise of toddlers growing up tech-savvy, concern is rising over the long-term impact of parking children in front of screens. And despite advertising claims, there are no major studies that show whether the technology is helpful or harmful.
“The real point here is that we have laws in the country saying if you make claims about a product, you need to be able to substantiate them,” said Susan Linn, above, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC). “The fact that they haven’t produced evidence is important.”
Linn’s nonprofit group brought the complaint against Fisher-Price and another app developer to the Federal Trade Commission last week. In 2007, based on a CCFC complaint, the agency forced the makers of the Baby Einstein videos to drop several educational and developmental claims. Last year, the FTC slapped a $185 million fine on the makers of the “Your Baby Can Read” set of videos, flashcards and books for false advertising.
As Anne Flaherty has reported for the Associated Press:
..."Everything we know about brain research and child development points away from using screens to educate babies," said Linn... "The research shows that machines and screen media are a really ineffective way of teaching a baby language. What babies need for healthy brain development is active play, hands-on creative play and face-to-face" interaction.
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any electronic "screen time" for infants and toddlers under 2, while older children should be limited to one to two hours a day. It cites one study that found infant videos can delay language development, and warns that no studies have documented a benefit of early viewing.
In response to the most recent CCFC complaint, one software developer, Open Solutions, changed the way it had been marketing its Baby First Puzzle Farm and other apps aimed at children 2 and younger. On Monday, the firm removed advertising language that had claimed its games are a “new and innovative form of baby education,” according to the CCFC...
With the prospect of the federal government clamping down on a flourishing corner of the Internet economy, the Toy Industry Association is planning to mount a defense of the business.