DVDs and videos designed to help babies learn to talk may do more harm than good, experts have warned.

The popular buys can delay toddlers’ language development, as well as hinder word power, reading skills and memory, studies show.

Research also suggests that those who watch lots of TV as tots are more likely to become hyperactive as they get older, a review of almost 80 studies into the issue warned.

Professor Dimitri Christakis, the review’s author, urged parents to ‘exercise due caution’ in their children’s viewing.

The average toddler spends 30 to 40 per cent of their waking hours in front of the TV, he said, with 90 per cent of children being regular viewers before reaching the age of two.

Educational DVDs, such as Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby, are popular among parents keen to boost their babies’ IQs but there is no scientific evidence they are effective, said the professor.

Instead, they may be harmful.

A recent Thai study, found that if children under 12 months watched TV for more than two hours a day they were six times more likely to have delayed language skills.

Another study concluded that children who watched baby DVDs between the ages of seven and 16 months knew fewer words than their peers.

Each hour they watched equated to six fewer words in their vocabulary.

Writing in the journal Acta Paediatrica, Professor Christakis said that even Sesame Street, which has been shown to benefit three to five year olds, can delay language development if viewed at a younger age.

One of his own studies found that children who watched a lot of TV as toddlers did not perform as well on tests to check reading and memory skills.

Professor Christakis, of the University of Washington in Seattle, said: ‘The weight of existing evidence suggests the potential for harm and I believe that parents should exercise due caution in exposing infants to excessive media.

He believes TV has a negative effect as it exposes children to flashing lights, and quick scene changes that can over-stimulate developing brain

TV also replaces other more important and appropriate activities like playing or interacting with parents,’ he said.

Time spent in front of the TV reduces the amount of time available to interact with other children and adults and to learn through playing with toys.

Professor Christakis concluded: ‘The explosion in infant TV viewing and the potential risks associated with it raise several important policy implications.

‘Educational claims should, and can, be based on scientific data.

‘In response to litigation, Baby Einstein has recently modified its claims and de-emphasised the educational components of its advertising.

‘Nevertheless, the names of the products themselves, and the testimonials that are circulated, serve to further convince parents that infant TV viewing has a positive impact.

Second, parents themselves need to be better informed about what activities really do promote healthy development in their young children.

Source: Daily Mail, UK – http://tinyurl.com/9kg6ba