A Baby Einstein or Your Money Back

Hi Readers — Hope you saw this piece in The Times:  Disney is offering refunds to any parents who bought its Baby Einstein videos and found, to their shock, that watching shapes, songs, kids and colors on TV did not turn their babies  into instant geniuses the way a name like “Einstein”  might suggest.

This mea culpa  is a huge victory for the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood, which got the Einstein folks to drop the word “educational” from their marketing materials a few years ago. This new refund is an even bigger deal, because now the company has to put its money where its Mouse is. (Sorry. It’s not even quite a pun, but who could resist?)  Anyway, Baby Einstein sells $200 million worth of products a year.  About a third of all American tots own one of its DVDs.  Giving their parents refunds  represents a lot of money, and a lot of embarrassment. What made Disney budge? According to the Times:

Last year, lawyers threatened a class-action lawsuit for unfair and deceptive practices unless Disney agreed to refund the full purchase price to all who bought the videos since 2004. “The Walt Disney Company’s entire Baby Einstein marketing regime is based on express and implied claims that their videos are educational and beneficial for early childhood development,” a letter from the lawyers said, calling those claims “false because research shows that television viewing is potentially harmful for very young children.”

I don’t think watching a little TV is going to turn any kid into a Dudley Dursley. But to think that watching TV is the key to kiddie education, rather than, say, letting the kid dig in dirt, or splash in the tub, or bang on a pot — whew. That’s just plain Goofy. — Lenore