As long as we can remember (or at least during the last decades) we have been fed with warnings against letting our children watch too much TV. We were told it could cause ADD, it could make them obese and that it would slow their vocabulary learning, only to mention a few of the downfalls. But in a groundbreaking new study by Emory University in Atlanta, GA, it was found that infants can in fact benefit from watching some types of videos, in this case sign language learning videos, from the age of 15 months.
The study involved a group of infants that were divided into four groups; the first one being placed in a lab learning sign language by watching a video, the second watching the same video at home, the third watching it at home with their parents and the final group spending 15 minutes a day learning by being instructed by the parents, without any video at hand.
This may come as a shocking piece of information for parents who have taken great care to prevent technology use with their young ones, but as it turns out, the fourth group that learned the signs through parents did not have a higher performance level than the video-watching babies. The number of signs learned (out of 18 possible) was about the same for all groups, which came as a big surprise since it was expected that learning would be easier with a human teacher as opposed to watching a video.
The study also looked at the ability to retain the knowledge during a few weeks, which is generally challenging with infants. Interestingly enough, the first group who watched videos alone, without the company of parents, was able to produce more signs than the other groups after weeks had passed by, except for the fourth group where they were instructed by parents. It was expected from the beginning that the fourth group would do better than the others, but the fact that learning and retaining knowledge is easier for an infant that is placed in front of a screen alone as opposed to in the company of parents was a big surprise.
The results of this study are in many ways groundbreaking, but there is still a lot more work to do. There is not enough research to prove that the conditions had a direct correlation with the results, and there is no information about any long term effects. It can also be added that working with babies is not an easy task if you are looking for a scientifically accurate conclusion since there is no way for the researchers to communicate with the subjects. Only 15 minutes per day was the amount of time spent watching videos, and parents should keep in mind that moderation is important as well as choice of content.