Researchers have long studied how passive television viewing affects young children, and how well children can learn from watching educational programming, but scientists are only just beginning to figure out how babies understand screen interactions with another person in real time.
Michael Rich, the director of the Center on Media and Child Health and a pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School, said that the latest findings help illustrate how the concept of “screen time” is too broad.
“Given the plethora of screens and uses for those screens that we have now, I think that we have to be a little sanguine about how much we can extrapolate,” he said.
“Just because they stare at a screen doesn’t mean they are interpreting it, decoding it, understanding it,” Rich said.“Can a baby decode the pattern of light and dark on a two-dimensional object as a symbol of Grandma’s face, and perceive that the noise they hear is generated by Grandma talking to them?”Back at Georgetown, Mc Clure and her team conducted a survey across Washington, D.Long before most babies toddle or talk, they begin to make sophisticated inferences about the world around them.By as young as 3 months old, newborns can form expectations based on physical principles like gravity, speed, and momentum.
Scientists at several universities told me they now have evidence, to the likely delight of far-flung grandparents everywhere, that infants can also tell the difference between, say, a broadcast of and a video call with their actual grandfather.
The ability to discern between video broadcast and video-based chat from infancy, which researchers have only recently confirmed, could have a profound effect on our understanding of how the human brain develops—and specifically, how technologies can play a role in shaping abstract concepts early on.“Babies who are pretty young are able to pick up, in particular, whether or not an adult is actually responding to them in real time,” said Elisabeth Mc Clure, a researcher who focuses on children and media at Georgetown University. You see, for example, with Elmo, or on This is meaningful for a few reasons, not least of which is cultural.
Extended families are increasingly spread across greater geographic distances.
Video calls are how many babies first meet their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, and other people who love them.
Video-chat technologies, then, have major implications for how humans perceive key relationships.
While interfaces like Skype, Face Time, and Google Hangout are still relatively new, this area of research builds on decades of experiments involving children and electronic screens.