The French broadcast authority announced today a ban on the marketing of television shows to children under 3 years old, citing developmental risks. This is particularly bad news for infant-targeted cable television channels BabyTV and BabyFirstTV, who must also broadcast the following warning message: “Watching television can slow the development of children under 3, even when it involves channels aimed specifically at them.”
There has been much concern about the developmental risks of television for babies, especially since the American Academy of Pediatricians issued a policy back in 1999 which recommended that children under two watch no television at all (it should be noted that the policy has now expired, having passed its five-year mark). Home videos such as Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby have long been under attack for their value, and some research indicates that far from doing good, watching these videos can actively harm a child’s language learning skills.
Let’s consider for a moment the fact that we live in a world where marketing to babies and creating entire television channels for them is real. In this case the law addresses an issue of health, and not so much deplorable advertising techniques (such as marketing tobacco and alcohol products to minors). It’s not the content that is necessarily found offensive, although that’s heavily implied. In my reading, the backbone of the argument is the harmful effects of the medium in which the shows are delivered. My guess is it will only be a matter of time before someone develops a “baby safe” television screen, and then we can really get to the core issues at play, like media literacy, parental guidance, ethics, obesity, education…I think we should stay tuned.