“The baby, assailed by eyes, ears, nose, skin, and entrails at once, feels it all as one great blooming buzzing confusion”- William James
The popularity of services such as Skype and FaceTime are a great opportunity for children to communicate in new ways. But how well do children actually learn via video chat? New research from the Lafayette College, USA, has found that 1 to 2 year olds can learn new information and develop relationships through real-time video chat.
In the study, toddlers either watched a pre-taped video or participated in a live video chat with a person . In both cases, the person taught them some new words and read a peek-a-boo book. The toddlers who did the live video chat performed better than those who watched the pre-taped video in many areas- they learnt more new words and better remembered the question-answer pattern of the book. They also more often recognised and preferred the person over a stranger when interacting in real life.
The finding is surprising because previous research has found that children generally learn less well through non-interactive video, than live experiences. According to this study it seems that video chat doesn’t seem to run into the same problem. The researchers suggest this is because video chat is socially contingent; much like real-life interactions, video chat allows the children and their partner to respond to each other’s actions and gestures in real-time.
It is important to note that in this experiment, the researchers didn’t compare video chat to real life interactions, so we don’t know whether the two are equally effective learning formats. But the study does suggest we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Skype or Facetime as just another kind of “screen time”; Facetiming with grandma may be an effective way to maintain relationships and learn new things.
I am the Director of the Early Learning Project at UNSW. My research interests focus on learning, memory and emotion understanding development in infancy and early childhood
I am currently studying for my undergraduate Psychology degree at Cardiff University in the UK. I am working as a Research Assistant in the Early Learning Project as part of our placement program this year.
I have just finished my thesis for my honuors degree. My research focused on future thinking ability in preschoolers.