Video Learning OK for Toddlers

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A new study on VIDEO learning does NOT mean it's now OK to plop your baby down in front of the TV!

A new study from Emory University in Atlanta has opened the door to the idea that TV time for babies may not be as bad as parents have been led to believe for years and years by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Yet don’t be fooled.

A closer look at the study shows that the study is about 15-month-olds — NOT babies or infants — and it’s about how they can learn as much by watching a learning video — not a TV show — as they do from working with a parent on the same material.

So sorry, don’t be plopping your INFANTS or BABIES in front of the tube any time soon. Journalists interchanging the terms infants, babies and tots do parents a disservice when it comes to early childhood development.

The new study which took place over a three-week period at the Video Learning Lab at Emory had parents introduce their 15-month-old TODDLERS to American Sign Language signs at home, either through videos or a picture book. When it came to video viewing, “babies” who watched with parents for approximately 15 – 20 minutes recalled a significant number of the 18 signs presented. They performed just as well as those who learned from books. In addition, those who watched videos alone (without a parent next to them), also retained a significant portion of the information.

When it comes to child development, the splitting of hairs is necessary since so much weight is rightly put on the earliest months of development. The findings linked to TV watching have resulted in numerous media outlets publishing titles like “Breaking News: TV Is Not as Bad for Babies as We Thought,” which is misleading and unhelpful to young parents in need of a little down time.

The actual study is soon to be published in the online journal Child Development.  But to be clear: This is about the ability of typical 15-month-olds to learn from an educational video, NOT babies watching TV.

The AAP has stated emphatically for years that television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children younger than age 2 since a child’s brain develops rapidly during the first year, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.

Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens. – See more at:

Once a week, the Emory team quantified their subjects’ learning outcomes by having them pair pictures with their matching signs. Parents also reported each week whether they observed their babies using these signs. When the three-week period ended, researchers retested the children one week later to determine what they were able to remember. Recall was assessed specifically by having the infants produce signs when they saw pictures of the objects, and by asking them to point to the picture that matched the signs.

Susan Swindell Day is the editor in chief of Nashville Parent and the mom of four amazing kids.

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