New Study Confirms Research from Future of Children's Issue on Children and Electronic Media: Videos for Infants Have Little Educational Impact

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A new study published in Psychological Science confirms research cited in The Future of Children's Children and Electronic Media issue, which suggests that educational videos for infants have little effect on learning.

In the recent study, led by Judy S. DeLoache of the University of Virginia, results demonstrated that children who viewed a best-selling infant-learning DVD, whether with their parents or without, did not learn any more words from their month-long exposure than did the control group. In fact, the highest level of learning occurred in the no-video condition in which parents tried to teach their children the same target words from the DVD during everyday activities.

These findings confirm previous research, which indicates that children under the age of eighteen months learn better from real-life experiences than from video. This is in part due to children's inability to understand television. Research studying eye patterns and attention to television shows that young children may be inattentive to dialogue and fail to integrate comprehension across successive scenes. Infants cannot imitate behaviors seen in video or transfer images learned from video to real-world problems, such as object-retrieval.

While more research is needed on infants and media, current research recommends basic methods to increase your infant's learning: talk to and interact with your baby.

For more information on the relationship between media and children of all ages, go to The Future of Children's volume on Children and Electronic Media.

5 Comments

I am the father of two daughters, and while raising the second one, we saw the baby einstein video series. I felt that it was little more than neglect if I sat little Greta infront of the tv so I could go about my chore list. I'm glad a study like this came out that actually proves that the BE series did little more than baby sit an infant for an hour or two.

I'm also glad to see studies proving this. Babies need direct eye contact, touch, real interaction.

While I agree that infants and older children through age 3 or 4 should not watch videos for extended periods of time, I am disappointed in the broad conclusions of the authors. This study was based on only 8 viewing sessions and dealt only with vocabulary. Vocabulary size increases over a period of one month can be measured, but I would prefer observation rather than a standardized test. A parent walking around the house and naming objects or sitting and leafing through a magazine naming and renaming objects on a daily basis will provide more brain stimulation than a flickering video screen. Video may be useful for some things, but vocabulary is probably best learned from repetitions from adults. A "Bits" collection of pictures on large cards will maintain attention for up to 300 words given in quick succession of 1 to 2 second intervals. The few words gained in this study is appalling considering the abilities of young children.
The only appropriate conclusions from this study are that there was no significant difference in the groups when presented with vocabulary words in this particular video using this particular schedule. Nothing more can be said from this data.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments Dr. Palmer. For additional research supporting the claims of this particular study (which certainly can be considered limited in scope), please see The Future of Children's journal on Children and the Media: http://www.futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/journals/journal_details/index.xml?journalid=32.

I really loved the piece of writing. It’s nice when one can be both informed, and entertained! Thank you.

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