If you've watched enough Sprout TV, you've seen these ads. I hope they bother you too.

We watch a fair amount of Sprout TV in our house (in fact, probably a little too much), specifically the Good Night Show. It seems that every time an episode of a show like The Chica Show or Sarah and Duck end, you can expect the next two minutes of airtime to be devoted to an ABCmouse advertisement.

While the advertisement shows you the stories of parents who are convinced their budding scholars are better prepared for school, the underlying message is that your child will be left behind if you don't subscribe right away.

This disturbs me.

For starters, children already stare at screens long enough each day, and it will only get worse as they grow into adults and adjust to a digitally driven world. The eye strain caused by all screens is great, and researchers are just beginning to learn about the long-term effects of excessive screen time. I can't help but wonder what programs like this, which encourage even more screen-time, will do to the physical health of children.  

Perhaps a larger concern for me is what we are telling our kids when we stick them in front of a screen under the auspices of eventually getting better grades. And the product is clearly marketed to the parents of toddlers and up, putting pressure on us early to make sure our erudite children have a jump on the intellectual competition with this one, magical, easy-to-use solution.

But we all know, there is no one, magical, easy-to-use solution for anything in parenting, right? Maybe not.

The Baby Einstein videos proved to have little tangible effect, even though parents who liked the videos themselves thought they did tremendous things for their children. Putting youngsters into highly-structured activities too early has proven deleterious as well.

What does work takes time, and sometimes a lot of effort. Reading to your infant and with your toddler works. Free playtime works. Encouraging imaginative play works. Age-appropriate exercise works. Good nutrition works. Modeling a healthy lifestyle works.  

Maybe ABCmouse and programs like it have a place in that mix, just not for my daughter.

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