Live Video Chat Shows Promise, May Teach Toddlers New Social Skills

It has been long believed that too much screen time can harm our children. So, we monitor and regulate. But what about FaceTime, an application that can be downloaded to any Apple iPad or iPhone? It’s a great tool for keeping in touch with distant relatives, but can our little ones benefit from it? A new study believes it may be so.

child with an iPad

The current guidelines as outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say that television and any other form of entertainment media, like video games, computer games, tablets, phones, etc, should be avoided for children under the age of two years. According to AAP, studies have shown that in doing so can lead to eating and sleep disorders, school difficulties, attention issues and just adds to the obesity.

However, estimates have indicated that 38% of children younger than 2 years-old use mobile devices. A new study however may change how we see “screen time.” The study was published in the journal Development Science by Professor Lauren J. Myers, Ph.D. Myers is a developmental psychologist that studies children’s social-cognitive and cognitive development, along with her team at the Lafayette Kids Lab at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.

The team found there may be a difference between just placing an infant in front of a television and having interactive conversations via video chat. Dr. Myers says, “In this study, we tested whether young children form relationships with and learn from people via video chat,” The study was aimed at solving why infants and toddlers tend to learn more from exchanges in person than from video.

Myers and her team studied two groups of 1-to-2-year-old children’s learning from video chatting. Sixty children in total participated in the study. Half of the group experienced one week of real-time FaceTime video chatting, while the other half were shown pre-recorded videos. However, the person on-screen in both the real-time and pre-recorded versions were teaching actions, patterns and words. After one week, the child was then reviewed.

Both groups showed promise, as they paid attention, as well as responding to the person on the screen in front of them. But, only those children who experienced interactions via the FaceTime application would respond in sync along with their on-screen “partner,” by imitating simple actions, like clapping. The children in the other group did not learn from the pre-recorded videos, where the person in the video could not see nor hear the child.

Children who participated in the FaceTime group were able to recognize that they had essentially “met” someone via video chat and learned patterns and new words. Myers did point out that learning is possible in children connected via live video chat, because children are able to imitate person-to-person interaction, and the child and FaceTime partner can communicate back and forth accurately.

The team did find that from the age of only 17 months, toddlers are able to interact with real-time video chat and are able to recognize friends and family on video chat that they are acquainted with in real life. Myers said, “They start to understand who that person is on the screen, and they’re able to get something meaningful out of the live video interaction with them.”



About the author


Jennifer is a stay-at-home mom who spends her days chasing around the never-ending ball of energy that is her son. By night you can find her at her computer, drafting up her next great blog post about parenting with chronic illnesses. She is also an avid photographer and jewelry artisan.

She is the founder of the Fibromyalgia support website,, where Fibromyalgia patients can go to gain support, learn how to advocate for themselves, and spread awareness of this still relatively unheard of condition.

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