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Advocates Urge FTC to Stop Your Baby Can Read's Deceptive Marketing
$200 Video Series For 3-Month-Olds Does Not Teach Reading; May Put Infants At Risk.
WASHINGTON - April 13 - Citing a lack of evidence that screen media is beneficial for babies and growing concern that it may be harmful, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Your Baby Can, LLC and Dr. Robert Titzer. The complaint charges that Your Baby Can Read!, a $200 video series that encourages parents to put infants as young as three months in front of screens, is falsely marketed as educational for babies.
“Your Baby Can Read! exploits parents’ natural tendency to want what’s best for their children,” said CCFC’s Director Dr. Susan Linn. “There is no evidence that babies learn anything—let alone a complex skill like reading—from videos. And in addition to conning parents out of $200, Your Baby Can’s false and deceptive marketing may be putting babies at risk.”
Research has linked infant screen time to sleep disturbances and delayed language acquisition, as well as problems in later childhood such as poor school performance and childhood obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under age two. If parents follow Your Baby Can Read!’s viewing instructions, their baby will have watched more than 200 hours by the age of nine months.
"Your Baby Can Read! makes numerous unsubstantiated and deceptive claims in pitching its product to concerned parents, in violation of the FTC Act,” said Guilherme Roschke of the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center, which is representing CCFC in its complaint. “The Commission should stop these practices and correct for past harms by seeking restitution for consumers and disgorgement of Your Baby Can's ill-gotten gains."
CCFC’s complaint documents that Your Baby Can Read!, which is advertised extensively on television and on the web, makes a number of misleading claims, including:
- Your Baby Can Read! effectively teaches babies to read;
- Your Baby Can Read! works by teaching babies to read during a “short window of opportunity” that closes at or before age five; and
- children who use Your Baby Can Read! will perform better than their peers in the future.
Yet according to literacy experts who have examined Your Baby Can Read!, the program does not teach actual reading; at best, it’s memorization. Even though babies and toddlers may recognize written words, their brains aren’t developed enough to actually learn to read. Nor is there evidence that babies who watch the videos are better readers later on. Experts also dispute Your Baby Can’s claims of a “short window of opportunity” for reading.
CCFC’s complaint is part of its longstanding efforts to hold the producers of screen media for babies accountable for their deceptive advertising claims. In 2006, CCFC filed an FTC complaint against the Walt Disney Company’s Baby Einstein. That complaint led to changes in the ways in which Baby Einstein was marketed, and ultimately led Disney to offer refunds to parents.
Added Dr. Linn, “These so-called educational videos don’t work. And they’re no substitute for what babies really need in order to learn and thrive—love, time with caring adults, and the opportunity to play and explore their surroundings.”
The complete complaint is available at http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/actions/yourbabycanreademail.html.