Is TV Bad for Babies?

May 13, 2005 — -- They're too small to know what a television is or even how to turn it on, but babies are the newest viewers HBO is targeting.

A new special called "Classical Baby" sets Mozart and Bach to colorful images. It promises to promote learning and bonding with parents.

The cable channel is capitalizing on the growing $100 million-a-year baby video industry, such as the "Baby Einstein" series.

"We have an 18-month-old and she's been watching them since she was born, and she's very alert when she watches them," said mom Helen Antonatos of the "Baby Einstein" series.

Creating Tiny TV Addicts?

A group called Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood is urging parents to protest and avoid the HBO special.

Child psychologist Dr. Susan Linn says there is no evidence that television is beneficial to babies. She argues that babies learn from interaction and real experiences and not watching the tube -- even if it is classical music.

"What HBO is saying is that this will help infants appreciate creativity, but really all it's going to do is get babies to turn to screens for stimulation and for soothing," Linn said.

In fact, the American Academy for Pediatrics says children under 2 should not be watching television at all.

Can Some Shows Help Bonding?

But the Harvard psychiatrist who consulted on the HBO project rejects that theory and claims the show can help parents and babies bond.

"Secure attachment between parent and child is the foundation for healthy intellectual, emotional, social and moral development," said Dr. Eugene Beresin. "'Classical Baby' is intended to be an interactive vehicle that fosters such attachment through an introduction to masterpieces."

It will be up to parents to decide for themselves and their babies when "Classical Baby" debuts this weekend.