Connecticut Families Extra: Is face-to-face interaction still better than screens for toddlers?

Connecticut Families

(WTNH) — Can your toddler learn from a screen the same way they learn from face-to-face interactions?

Hand 2-year-old Stephen a toy car and he’s ready to take off, not only with his hands but with his mouth.

Sara, Stephen’s mom said, “His big thing is vehicles and he can name just about every vehicle, construction vehicle on the road.”

2-year-old Tyson’s learning is sparked by his curiosity.

Tyson’s mom, Jessica, said, “He likes to point at things and say, ‘what’s this?’ and so I’ll tell him what the word is.”

But can this face-to-face learning be just as effective on the screen?

Developmental Psychologist Georgene Troseth, PhD, studied 176 toddlers, ages 23 to 32 months. They were split into younger and older groups. Some of the toddlers from each age group watched a teacher, in person, label an object that the kids had not seen before. The name of the object was made-up.

The other toddlers watched the same teacher doing the demonstration by Skyping through a video screen.

Then a researcher asked the child to choose the named object.

Troseth said they found, “Whether the person was actually Skyping, pausing, wave for the child’s attention, they still did not learn the novel word for the novel object when it was on video.”

The finding suggests that kids two years and younger learn best from real-world experiences. However, Troseth says young children can still learn from video if there is a parent watching and participating with them.

“You’re watching a video and there were words in it that you wanted your child to know, repeating the word, talking about the object,” said Troseth.

Labeling items can also help your child make those connections to the real world.

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use by children younger than 18 months, except for video chatting with relatives. And from 18 to 24 months, they can be slowly introduced to digital media that is watched alongside their parents.

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