Friday Parenting Myth: “‘Educational Media’ Will Make My Child Smarter”

This myth preys on the natural desire for parents to see their children succeed.

Apple ipad childConstantly, parents are being told that certain mobiles, baby carriers, books, and toys will give their child an intellectual edge. Additionally, there are educational DVDs, mobile Apps, computer games, etc…The combination of parental anxiety and the competition for good schools can make families susceptible to marketing.

One might think, “Well, even though this might just be marketing, it is not doing any harm to my child.”  There have been some studies showing that educational media, especially before the age of two, is associated with language delay.  Even though some researchers dispute these findings, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no “screen time” prior to the age of two (“screen time” includes television, DVDs, video games, smart phones, and tablets).

One important idea to consider when it comes to media and development is called the “displacement effect.”  There are only twenty-four hours in a day and time spent in front of a screen “displaces” the time interacting with parents, the environment, or sleeping–all three of which have been proven to be beneficial to cognitive development.  So the question to the parent is: “Digital media may or may not be beneficial and it does have the potential to be harmful via displacement of sleep and parental and peer interaction, so why take the chance?”

-Daniel Weissbluth

Weissbluth Pediatrics


Thakkar, R. R., M. M. Garrison, and D.A Christakis 2006. A systematic review for the effects of television viewing by infants and preschoolers. Pediatrics 118 (5): 2025-31.

Zimmerman, FJ., D.A Christakis, and A.N. Meltzoff. 2007. Television and DVD/video viewing in children younger than 2 years. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 161 (5): 473-79.


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