G. A. Strouse, Vanderbilt University
G. Troseth, Vanderbilt University
Abstract: In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that children under the age of two be exposed to no television. Many parents are not following the recommendation, however, as evidenced by the $170 million the Baby Einstein series made in sales in 2004. The AAP recommendation was largely based on a lack of research showing positive effects of video exposure. The recommendation brought to the forefront how little research had been done on what infants are able to learn from television and what the consequences of early exposure may be. Our study helps to address these issues through a detailed look at one aspect of two-year-olds' learning from video: the ability to acquire skills through imitation. Two-year-olds who saw an adult on TV assembling some novel toys imitated the novel actions equally as well as children did who saw the same demonstration face-to-face. These findings are important because they show that toddlers may be able to learn some content from video, at least in certain types of tasks, and suggest that as a field we may be underestimating the ability of very young children to learn from video. A follow-up study uses a video that is manipulated to include features typically found in educational television, such as a displaced context and cuts between actions. The results have implications for the efficacy of television in teaching the youngest viewers.