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Your Baby Can Read? FTC Says Ads for Kids' Videos Were Deceptive

Back in 2009, I noted here that, despite parents' hopes and dreams, the "Baby Einstein" videos we were feeding our children weren't actually making them into Einsteins or geniuses. In 2009, having already dropped the word "educational" from its marketing of the videos, the Walt Disney Company (threatened with class action lawsuits by the parents of non-geniuses) went a step further and agreed to issue refunds to anyone who had bought the videos going back to 2004.

Many of you undoubtedly laughed off this educational setback. "That's so yesterday. Who needs Baby Einstein," you said, "when these new "Your Baby Can Read!" videos are going to teach my nine-month-old how to read the newspaper??" Well, it now turns out that, according to the Federal Trade Commission, there is no competent evidence that your infant was learning to read after all. (Note: does this remind anyone other than me of the "cats don't talk" litigation from earlier this week?)

On August 28, the FTC announced a settlement of false advertising charges it filed against the marketers of YBCR. The FTC charged that the ads' claims "that the program could teach infants and toddlers to read and that scientific studies proved the claims" were deceptive. In one ad in particular, a two-year-old girl was shown purportedly reading a page from the children's book "Charlotte's Web," and her mother states that she also read her first "Harry Potter" book when she was three.

The FTC charged that 

the defendants failed to provide competent and reliable scientific evidence that babies can learn to read using the Your Baby Can Read! program, or that children at age three or four can learn to read books such as Charlotte's Web or Harry Potter.

Under a settlement reached with two of the three defendants, the company is prohibited from further use of the term "Your Baby Can Read," and is subject to a $185 million judgment -- equal to the company’s gross sales since January 2008. The FTC stated that upon the company's payment of $500,000, however, "the remainder of the judgment will be suspended due to the company’s failing financial condition. Your Baby Can has represented that it is going out of business."

What's the next video to topple? My kids are all in elementary school or older now, so I don't keep up with these educational-type videos for toddlers anymore. Are there any other videos or toys being promoted now that will supposedly turn your child into a genius?

Posted by Bruce Carton on August 31, 2012 at 04:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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