17 August 2007

Dissing Disney

One of my alma maters, the University of Washington, recently came out with a study that says that childhood DVDs don't help children learn language and may actually hinder them. Disney demanded a retraction. You can view the lengthy letter to the U of W president here. Below is just the first paragraph from the letter. Seems Mickey is in a sour mood:

On behalf of The Walt Disney Company, and our subsidiary The Baby Einstein Company LLC, I write to demand the immediate retraction and clarification of a misleading, irresponsible and derogatory press statement issued by the University of Washington on Monday, August 6, and thereafter posted on the University's website, regarding the publication of a study by three University researchers entitled "Associations Between Media Viewing and Language Development in Children Under Age 2 Years."

Below is U of W President, Mark Emmert's, response.

UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT

Mark A. Emmert, President
August 16, 2007

Mr. Robert Iger
President and Chief Executive Officer
The Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521

Dear Mr. Iger:

Thank you for your letter of August 13. I have reviewed the news release about the paper published by three of our faculty in the Journal of Pediatrics entitled, "Associations between Media Viewing and Language Development in Children Under Age 2 Years." In addition, I have conferred with one of the paper's co-authors.

The Journal of Pediatrics is a prestigious, peer-reviewed journal. Papers submitted to this journal undergo a rigorous review by experts in the field before they are accepted for publication. This process ensures that the work represented in the paper meets the high standards of scientific inquiry required by the editors of the journal and its editorial panel of distinguished scientists. The University of Washington stands behind the work of Professors Frederick Zimmerman, Dimitri Christakis, and Andrew Meltzoff.

The paper set out to "test the association [italics added] of media exposure with language development in children under age 2 years." It did not purport to establish a causal relationship, as the authors explicitly state in the article. The authors found a large and statistically significant reduction in vocabulary among infants age 8 to 16 months who viewed baby DVDs or videos, compared to those who did not view them. They also concluded that more research is needed to determine the reasons for this statistical association.

The authors of the study and I believe the news release reflects the essential points made in the research publication. The news release clearly is not intended to substitute for a reading of the research paper, which was made available to all the reporters who contacted our news office. The news release briefly summarizes the methodology of the study and includes the researchers' interpretations of the findings, something in which most news media are interested and one of the reasons for issuing the release. The researchers find no inconsistencies between the content of the news release and their paper. They believe the release accurately reflects the paper's conclusions and their commentary. For these reasons, the University of Washington will not retract its news release.

We do not view this study as the last word on the subject of the influence baby DVDs have on child development. The findings were considered significant enough to be reported in a major journal, and as a public institution we feel duty-bound to make the public aware of these findings. As we say in the release, "more research is required, particularly to examine the long-term effects of baby DVDs and videos on children's cognitive development." We believe that our researchers at the University of Washington will continue to be in the forefront of this important research aimed at helping parents and society enhance the lives of children.

Sincerely yours,

Mark A. Emmert

4 comments:

:o) said...

Gee, that's really hard to figure out, Mr. Iger. Videos are not interactive. Babies are not required to respond as they are when an adult actually speaks with them. A big fat DUH to that.

Please pray for me, I am very angry today. :O(

tara said...

swissmiss:
Statistically there is a high correlation between breathing and dying does this correlation suggest we shouldn't breath?--but then there is a high correlation to those who don't breath and those who die. LOL!

One of my doc friends did an informal study with one of his teens for a school paper--not highly sophisticated, but they connected electrodes to willing subjects and had them watch different shows to see what part of the brain was activiated and the intensity of brain waves involved.

What they found was that the show that produced the most activity in the brain--in all areas was the Simpsons and South Park--go figure.

Christine said...

My goodness, that's crazy! Just because they're main source of income is children's shows doesn't mean it is healthy for children to watch tv. That would be like the tabacco companies demanding that the surgeon general stop saying cigarettes hurt people.

swissmiss said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. I thought Disney's letter was pretty hot...hot under the collar since the study was hitting them in the pocket book. Good to see the UW President supporting his researchers.