Did you know in 2007 there was a big uproar and lawsuit over baby videos and television shows, specifically Baby Einstein? Parents were being mislead to think these were educational and beneficial, but a study found infants who watched baby videos had a significantly smaller vocabulary than those who had not watched the videos. Several research studies were completed in response, and again the data showed the more children watched, the worse their vocabulary.⠀
Similarly, some parents believed playing the radio, audio books, or foreign language tapes to young infants would help them acquire a greater vocabulary. A study by Kuhl found infants’ brains absorbed none of it, despite seeming engaged. Why?
There are two main reasons why screens and audio do not work for language and brain development:
1. Babies learn to decipher speech partly by lip reading. Before a baby can understand any word meaning, they must understand when a word ends and another word begins. This is called segmentation. Around 7.5 months, a baby can segment speech of people speaking to them, but if they hear speech while looking at something other than an actual face, the speech is endless gibberish. ⠀
2. INTERACTION – A video can’t interact and respond to the sounds a baby makes. There is over a decade of research that highlights the significance of responding in the moment to infants and toddlers. A study found that when 4mo and their parents practiced vocal turn-taking, those children would later have greater cognitive ability. Another study found babies and toddlers of high-responders were six months ahead of toddlers of low-responders. How a parent responds to a child’s vocalizations – right in the moment- is the most powerful tool pulling a child from babble to fluent speech. Showing affection to children when they babble also rewards their attempts and increases the frequency and maturity of the babble- something tv can’t do.⠀
Interesting, right? Brains crave personal connection and affection!⠀
If you’re interested in this topic, I encourage you to check out @afriendlyaffair.
Dr. Katie is a BOSS at delivering practical ways for parents to increase responsiveness.