White Dot calls for BabyFirst TV
to be kept out of Britain
The first 24-hour informercial for attention deficit disorder

In America this week, two advertising executives launched a round-the-clock television channel aimed at babies. At an age when their brains are just forming the ability to understand human beings, infants are now being targeted for hours of screen time. Their parents are being told that "leading experts" say it's good for them.

BabyFirst TV represents a bold new attack on childhood for personal gain, and its makers want to bring it to the UK by the end of this year.

But White Dot, the international campaign against television, intends to stop them. Our first step will be to ask OFCOM to rule whether BabyFirst TV does not represent one long advertisement, which would normally be limited to 9 minutes in the hour. We base this request on section 3.1 of the Rules on Amount and Distribution of Advertising:

" Television advertising must be readily recognisable as such and kept quite separate from other parts of the programme service. Breaks containing advertising spots of any kind, including teleshopping spots, must be identified in vision and/or sound, for example station identifications going in and out of breaks."

It is self-evident that children barely old enough to push themselves away from a TV set are not able to discern between content and advertising. That makes BabyFirstTV a 24-hour commercial for the channel and any ancillary products the channel gives its name to. And, like Teletubbies before it, BabyFirstTV is a commercial for the activity of watching television - teaching infants that the TV is their friend as it damages their cognitive development.

Infants need the physical activity and human interaction that TV takes away. Links continue to grow between TV and attention deficit disorder, childhood obesity, poor acquisition of language and aggression. Yet parents seem increasingly unwilling to limit their children's screen time. The harmful effects of television are the elephant in the corner of 70% of kids' bedrooms.

And the way parents use TV as a babysitter is the guilty secret that BabyFirst TV want to make you feel good about:

"BabyFirstTV can enrich the connection between parents and baby" says their website "and give them new opportunities for learning and playing together."

New Game for Baby: Shut Up and Watch

Breathtaking cynicism is nothing new in the television industry, but White Dot thinks we should at least wait until children can speak before trapping them in front of it.

"It's so depressing," says White Dot founder Jean Lotus who is raising five children without TV "you see the reviews of those Baby Einstein videos on Amazon and all they talk about is how great they are for keeping kids shut up. One guy said he played the same DVD again and again and how wonderful it was. Now parents like him won't even have to hit the play button."

"Ten years ago," says David Burke, White Dot's British Director "the world was shocked to hear of infants tied to their chairs and ignored in a Chinese orphanage. Looking at the launch of BabyFirst TV, I wonder why we got so upset. Did they just need better quality programmes?"

Experts Agree

Baby First TV is keen to show off their panel of children's experts. Often quoted is the head of the panel, Dr. Edward R B McCabe III of the Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA. But since Dr. McCabe’s department specializes in organ transplants and his own area of expertise is murine glycerol kinase deficiency, White Dot questions his qualifications to comment on the effects of television in young children.

We set greater store by the American Academy of Pediatrics, who advise that no child under the age of two be exposed to television, and that older children see no more than two hours per day. As their web site says: "During the first two years of life children need good, positive interaction with other children and adults. Too much television can negatively affect early brain development. This is especially true at younger ages, when learning to talk and play with others is so important."

The Academy based their advice on studies such as one at the University of Washington in 2004, showing that early television exposure is associated with attentional problems at age 7. Before that, work in 1996 by Dr Sally Ward of the Speech, Language and Hearing Centre in London showed that background noise from television and the attendant lack of interaction with parents leads to delayed acquisition of speech in young children.

Additional Links:

OFCOM Rules on Amount and Distribution of Advertising


The American Academy of Pediatrics on TV:


University of Washington study on TV and attention deficit


BabyFirst TV web site