cabin fever: the aftermath
muppet thumbs

like peepee teepees, only more expensive

The other day I got a large (and completely) unsolicited envelope in the mail from a company called Infoture, Inc. Infoture has developed a hot new product that will make your baby above average in every way.

I'll let them sum up how this will happen. From the flier:

"The groundbreaking research of Dr. Betty Hart and Dr. Todd Risely proved that the single most powerful action you can take -- more than using flashcards or electronic learning toys -- is to talk with and to your child. And the number of words your child hears is a vital factor in determining future educational, emotional and social success."

Makes sense, right? Talking to your kids is good. Never mind that Hart wand Risely's study focused on inner city kids who came from homes where their parents were barely around, much less talking to them, so any communication with an adult lead to vast leaps in cognitive ability. We can still all agree that talking to your kids is good.

Problem is -- no one can make any money from parents simply sitting down and talking to their kids. Enter the Infoture folk.  Their innovation? The LENA Learning system because "every word counts."*

The LENA system, for a mere $99 a month (or $1188 in one lump) will provide you with a cigarette-sized recorder that you slip into a pocket of your baby's clothes (and, for $32-$36 more, you can buy some of the special LENA clothes with special LENA pockets). Also included is  speech recognition software and the online database with which to analyze it. In short, "LENA counts and analyzes the number of words you and your child speak to each other. So you know with confidence that your child's development is in the target zone -- and you can relax and enjoy your baby even more."

Yes, because it is clearly not enough to simply relax and enjoy your baby without buying more stuff to lull you into a false sense of security...

The LENA people also provide a chart. If your kid hears 8624 words per day, it'll have an IQ of 79; 17, 514 equals an IQ of 107. If you're shooting high -- 30, 142 gets you an IQ of 117. Which, incidentally, won't even get you into MENSA or most gifted and talented secondary school programs.

Frankly, the mind reels. I'm still not sure that this isn't some kind of elaborate sham, a mockumentary, if you will, of all of the parenting gizmos that promote the obvious. The language is almost too perfect. Like the pitch letter's PS: "This is the optimal time to help your child meet his or her full potential." And I can also get a 10 percent discount if I call right now.

Most of me hopes that it's a Penn-and-Teller-esque "Bullshit" scenario, where hidden cameras will show how well-meaning parents can be suckered into almost anything. I strongly suspect that it isn't, however and that Infoture will make a nice chunk of money preying on parents' worst fears abotu not doing enough to help their children.

*It appears that to access these sites, you need an offer code. I'm not sure I get the reasoning behind a company who is selling a product restricting access to promotional information about that product. If I'm selling, say, Hondas, I don't hide all of my pitch material behind a code that is available to people who already have received a flier about Hondas, right? Or am I missing something here?

Comments appropriate is it that I misread the company's name as InfoTORture?

As appropriate as the fact that I kept mistyping it as that...

How quick we are to discredit that which we don't understand!

I don't understand how airplanes work, but I still credit them for being able to fly. Ditto cars.

If I don't understand how the LENA system works, please explain it to me. That seems worlds more likely to prove that I'm wrong than finger wagging.

Do they make clothes for adults? Can you set the device to vibrate?

I'd give my son one minute before he would take the thing apart, rendering it even more useless than it would be when it arrived.

It would be kind of fun to buy one and hack it to sound alarms "You need to talk to this kid more. Start talking now. Only 3 hours of daylight left!"

I wonder how the LENA system deals with cursing? Does it matter if your cursing is grammatically correct? So many questions...

At least your son, Karrie, would have a valuable learning experience when hacking the LENA.

I live in Denver, CO and am a parent that voluntarily participated in the 3 year long LENA research project and I can say that you are not very well-informed on the matter. For starters, the reason that you needed to have a source code to access the site to buy the kit was because for a certain stretch of time it was only accessible to research participants and people invited to try the product before it was made available to the public. As for curse words, no it won't pick them up. It does not pick up individual words, but the number of words. It also tells you how many "turns" your child has at talking/responding to an adult. If you have any questions about LENA feel free to email me with them . it really is an amazing advancement in language development. Don't knock it till you know the whole story.

Someone needs to explain to me why it is imperative for me to spend $1200 so that I can talk to my kid.
Laughing out loud. How in the world did any of us ever acheive adulthood without this product?

Bill S.

This device would be an excellent way to access how hearing-impaired children are doing with their language development in the natural environment of their home instead of a clinical setting. What a wonderful way to collect a word count for the child instead of video taping or hand recording. I am the mother of a profoundly deaf daughter as well as a teacher of the deaf and hearing-impaired and I think this technology provides wonderful information to help our special population.

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