WASHINGTON - June 14 - Intensifying efforts to stop false and deceptive marketing by the baby media industry, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against BabyFirstTV. The complaint cites a lack of evidence that television is beneficial for babies and growing concern that it may be harmful. BabyFirstTV, the first television station for infants and toddlers, is available to viewers for $9.95 per month on DirectTV.
In an amendment to their May 11, 2006 complaint against Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby, CCFC charged BabyFirstTV with violating Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act by marketing their programming as educational for babies. CCFC is asking the FTC to prohibit BabyFirstTV from making unsubstantiated claims about the educational and developmental benefits of their programming and to require that promotional materials for the new channel prominently display the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendation of no screen time for children under two.
“There is no evidence that screen media is beneficial for children under two--and placing babies in front of screens takes them away from activities that really do promote healthy development.” said Dr. Susan Linn, CCFC’s co-founder and author of Consuming Kids. “BabyFirstTV shouldn’t deceive parents by claiming that their programming is educational for babies. It’s clever marketing, but it’s just not true.”
According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, parents’ belief about the educational benefits of television affects the amount and frequency of children’s viewing time. BabyFirstTV promotes its programming as “an educational tool that provides a positive learning environment” and as “specifically designed to enhance developmental skills in areas such as creative thinking, math, sensory skills, language, social skills and creative play.” BabyFirstTV also touts its “Color-coded Programming Guide” claiming that it “helps inform parents about the educational value of each segment” of programming. For instance, according to the guide, the Thinking Journey series “engages children in identifying patterns of thinking and developing creative ways of viewing the world.” CCFC’s complaint charges that is “extremely unlikely” that BabyFirstTV would be able to provide research to support these claims.
“BabyFirstTV clearly violates consumer protection laws. The Federal Trade Commission Act prohibits companies from making false claims or claims they cannot substantiate.” said Jennifer Prime of the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center, which is representing CCFC in its complaint.
“BabyFirstTV’s false and deceptive marketing may be putting babies at risk,” said Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint of the Judge Baker Children's Center and Harvard Medical School. Research suggests that television viewing for babies is negatively associated with cognitive development, regular sleep patterns, and time spent interacting with parents and engaged in creative play. Television viewing can also be habit-forming and, for older children, is linked to childhood obesity and poor school performance.
Added Dr. Poussaint, “Parents have a right to know that television isn’t educational for babies, and that it may even be detrimental to their development.”
The complete complaint is available at http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/babyvideos/babyfirstcomplaint.htm.