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FaceTime Grandma

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — How much screen time is too much for your toddler and baby? As it turns out, not all screens and media are created equal. New research suggests that video chat features like FaceTime can actually help little ones learn from the people on the other end.

For two-and-a half-year-old Charlotte, seeing her grandmother brightens her day.

It’s fun for Nona, too. But should screen time be avoided for young kids? Lafayette College developmental psychologist Lauren Myers, PhD, said not necessarily.

“There’s a lot of research that suggests that when children can interact with somebody over a screen, that they process that differently than if they’re watching a prerecorded video or TV,” explained Myers.

Researchers studied 30 children ages 12 to 24 months who had video chat interaction six times over the course of one week.

The researchers asked the children to perform actions, taught them new words, and reacted to them in real time.

After a week of video chats, the researchers also interacted face-to-face and noticed patterns among the older children.

Myers told Ivanhoe, “Starting at about 17 or 18 months, they would do things like prefer to play with the person they had video chatted with over the stranger.”

Researchers also studied 30 children who only watched prerecorded videos. Myers said that, unlike the video chat group, these children did not form a relationship or learn new words or patterns when the partner was prerecorded.

Myers detailed, “That back and forth pattern of interaction is something that’s really crucial for early learning. That’s what video chat preserves.”

It is also building relationships, one chat at a time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics initially discouraged screen use for children under age two. The revised recommendations allow an exception for video chat interactions. Myers said parents should make sure grandma asks questions and responds appropriately— just like she would in person.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Kirk Manson, Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. 

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