Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

« Previous Post | Opinion L.A. Home | Next Post »

Disney's ingenious refund for Baby Einstein

Einstein For any parents who are truly shocked and dismayed that propping their babies in front of a TV didn't result in child prodigies, the Walt Disney Company has good news: It is offering a $15.99 refund for Baby Einstein videos, up to four per customer.

The company says this is just its usual satisfaction-guaranteed sort of deal. Not exactly. The videos for this refund could have been purchased at any time and used till they wore out. Receipts not required.

The videos have been the subject of complaints and a threatened lawsuit by an advocacy group called Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, which contended that contrary to the company's early claims that Baby Einstein would enhance child development, watching TV is actually detrimental to children younger than 2. The campaign had more going for its argument than Baby Einstein did, with the American Academy of Pediatrics taking a dim view of the under-2 set as a TV audience and several studies to back that up. The pitch for the videos' benefits softened in the last couple of years. 

Personally, I don't think an occasional half hour here or there of watching colorful images on TV does major harm to a baby. In fact, I see the value of video babysitting. Let's face it, the pediatrics academy isn't spending the entire day with a fussy infant. Parents need a break now and then, and if Baby Einstein keep Mom and Dad from totally losing it, I'll chalk that up as helpful to a child's development, though human interaction, play and an occasional really good burp probably do more for an infant's well-being. If anyone believed Disney had cued into a magic, painless way to create babies guaranteed to test into the Gifted and Talented Education program by third grade, their children's bigger problem wasn't in how many videos they watched, it was in their parents' DNA.

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

--Karin Klein


Comments () | Archives (15)

The comments to this entry are closed.


technology may keep advancing, but raising a child will always stay the same. No amount of videos and other forms of entertainment, such as educational video games, aren't going to be nearly as affective as love. Parents forcefully convince themselves that these videos work, so that they don't feel guilty about not being their for their child.


So you think it's OK for Disney to mislead parents? That seems to be the takeaway message from this post.

Jim Green

I don't blame Disney ... I blame the creator. She and her husband duped millions of us ... including Disney who bought the rights from her ... and made them multi-millionaires.

My children (now 12 & 10) turned out fine and are intelligent well adjusted students, but I never expected Baby Mozart or Baby Einstein to do any more for them than entertain them for a few half-hour blocks.

Any parent who actually believed that the videos would make their children "special" ought to have had THEIR heads examined.

Between BARNEY and the BABY MOZART vidoes my children enjoyed many calm and happy moments during those first few years. I have never seen anything wrong with them, and will not send my videos in for a refund.


For heaven's sake, people, get off your high horse. Obviously, saturating your kid with TV isn't a good thing. But like the writer said, sometimes parents just need a BREAK, and this is a safe way to do that. The two previous posters obviously do not have children, or they live in la-la land. Geez.


Omigod could you kiss up any more than you already do?

I swear Disney owns stock in the L.A. Times.

There can not be more shameless pandering in the history of the written word.

In fact, more than just stock, Disney must have writers at the L.A. Times, who bounce this off Bob Iger before it makes it to print.

Ingenious refund?

How about an ingenious refund for readers who thought the L.A. Times was objective?

Mary Conrey

I have to say that this is unfair to Disney and the Baby Einstein videos. I am the mother of a three year old girl who has been speaking in full sentences since she was twenty months old. Prior to speaking she was able to identify over two hundred items in English and in Greek making her vocabulary over four hundred words. I debated with the idea of putting her in front of the television or any "educational" videos because of all the hype about the dangers or the harm it could do. But I opted to buy the Baby Einstein series which was set on replay most of the day. I also let her watch the Disney and Noggin channels. All before the age of two. I am not going to claim that watching any of these things is the reason she can hold a conversation with an adult, or that she uses big words, or that she can identify the names of insects, birds, butterflies, inventors, amphibians, primates, mammals, and so on and so on and so on. I've sat with her since birth and read to her every night. I ask her questions about what she's watching or how her day went and she tells me in full detail. I sit down with her and have conversations. I have never used baby talk with her - ever. In fact, she gets bored with children her own age because they don't talk back to her. If there is anything detrimental to a child's well-being, that is something I'm worried about now - when she starts school, she'll be bored with her classmates or the curriculum. Maybe I over did it with the reading and interaction I have with her.

So for some kid who has been exposed to over twenty Baby Einstein videos and the Disney and Noggin channels since birth and speaks very clearly and very intelligently, I can only say that this advocacy group and any studies that watching television and/or educational videos is "detrimental" to a child's health is absolutely false. Just sit with my daughter for proof of that. If you spend time with your child and educate your child yourself, no amount of television or video time will harm your child's vocabulary. My daughter will tell you - in her own words.

Karin Klein

@ pinchy and bob. I have no love for these videos and never had any belief in any of the claims. It's right that they toned down their marketing, though they might not have done it quite enough. But the child-rearing world is full of products and services with ads implying one's child will fall behind or be a mediocrity who will never land a spot at a competetive college without a certain expenditure of money. And I don't buy any of it, in the literal or metaphorical sense. Nor do I think that videos for very young children are the spawn of the devil, as long as they're used sparingly. Parents have to think for themselves and model that for their chldren; I suspect that's one of the best ways to raise a child with critical thinking skills.


How about those "Your Baby Can Read" programs. The infomercial was just on while I was working and made me think of this story about the baby einstein videos. Wonder if the CFCC will be after them soon.


File this under 'The Death of Common Sense."

Will a 1/2hr or so of "Baby Einstein" (BE) make your kid(s) a genius or an idiot? Nope. Will 4hrs make your kid an imbecile, doubtful, but it's not exactly a good thing.

I think people draw the causal conclusion that TV = idiocy when in reality TV = time away from better activities. Having several small children, a BE video keeps them in one place while I can take a shower or do some chores. That said, the educational opportunities offered by making a couple 'bug boxes' out of used jam jars and getting them out in the yard outweighs hours of BE by a magnitude of 1000. Just like computers and video games. They're not inherently bad, just that they take valuable time away from BETTER things.

Just Ask Baby

Those who write books (or other media) for parents and who promise better brains and higher IQ’s in infants whose parents follow their advice, simply prey upon parental vulnerabilities. There is no scientific evidence to support these claims and much evidence to negate them.

Don, here's an interesting post on such programs that claim to Teach Babies to Read: http://www.justaskbaby.com/blogs/professor-elkind/teaching-babies-to-read


What is the exact point of this opinion piece? Shame on Disney? Shame on Bad Self deluded parents? Give a break to good parents who need a breather?

People have been complaining about television's negative effect on children since I was a child. (and I am a child of the 70s)

Be good, loving parents....don't allow children to watch too much tv....we don't need a study to tell us that.

(why does the LA Times publish these pieces, let the person write a blog on their own time and dime.)


Of course Liberals don't want you to use it. They do not want smart Americans because they will not vote for obama or communism. Since when do Americans want to stay dumb?

Izzy Ginzberg

Disney's giving refunds is ingenious. They are neutralizing a lawsuit over the value of Baby Einstein, showing how they "really care about kids", and have generated an amazing amount of positive publicity over this that is worth way over the refunds they will have to shell out.

No repeipt needed, yada yada... easy and painless.

and yet, most people will not ask for a refund.

another example of Disney marketing.


TV should be viewed like a drug - an addictive one. Like smoking, one cigarette may not kill you but there is a cumulative effect. TV may not kill you or even make you an idiot - directly, but research shows that children who watch more TV are fatter and less active and therefor more prone to diabetes, heart disease and all the other ailments liked with obesity.

Videos for young children and infants are entry level drugs the the TV generation. Disney used them to hook young viewers so that then as they grow up thay could move on to harder stuff like Disney Movies and even a WHOLE DISNEY CHANNEL!

As parents you can try to justify using TV by saying you "need a break" or "it's better than losing it (i.e.smacking the kid)". But the bottom line is that you are helping to create a TV addict. Could you defend giving yout child Benadryl in the middle of the day to knock out your child for a nap simply to have "a break"? Some parents would try, but at least they understand they they are drugging their kids into temporary zombiehood, unlike the parent who uses a TV version of a hypnotic drug.

Research does support that children who watch TV have greater verbal and vocabulary skills. And why not? TV can talk and scream at children non-stop all day long as no parent possibly can. However the research also shows that the more children watch TV the more violent they become, the more ADHD type behaviors they exhibit and the less time they spend interacting with other children.

So if that is what you want for your children, I will go and buy every Baby Einstein video I can find at flea markets and send them to you. --- No!!!! Wait a minute, Disney will give me 15 bucks each for them? - - I will send you Barney videos instead. Good luck to you and your children.

Krisi Smith

How about thinking about the cognitive side of things. If you do not think that 30 mintues of television hurts your toddler then do some research on that.



In Case You Missed It...



Recent Posts
Reading Supreme Court tea leaves on 'Obamacare' |  March 27, 2012, 5:47 pm »
Candidates go PG-13 on the press |  March 27, 2012, 5:45 am »
Santorum's faulty premise on healthcare reform |  March 26, 2012, 5:20 pm »


About the Bloggers
The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

In Case You Missed It...