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Researchers have long studied how passive television viewing affects young children, and how well children can learn from watching educational programming, but scientists are only just beginning to figure out how babies understand screen interactions with another person in real time.Michael Rich, the director of the Center on Media and Child Health and a pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School, said that the latest findings help illustrate how the concept of “screen time” is too broad.Video-chat technologies, then, have major implications for how humans perceive key relationships.While interfaces like Skype, Face Time, and Google Hangout are still relatively new, this area of research builds on decades of experiments involving children and electronic screens.Even when the conversations are technologically flawless, the format itself disrupts many of the cues that help babies understand what’s going on in a face-to-face interaction.“Babies are very sensitive to eye contact, physical contact, pointing at things, and all of those can be compromised,” Mc Clure said.
“Previous observational research has shown that children under 7 have trouble using phones—and babies and toddlers in particular have trouble with it,” Mc Clure said. There are a lot of cognitive skills that go into understanding what a disembodied voice represents.”More broadly, watching how babies handle interactions that are separated by a screen is one way to get at the question of how they process and understand their surroundings in general.
“Really tiny babies pick up on the social responsiveness of a person.