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Developmental Psychology: Can Children Learn From Video?

social psychology, developmental psychology, can children learn from video

This episode of The Psychology World Podcast is on the developmental psychology topic of Can Children Learn From Video. I really enjoy this episode and hopefully so will you!

Today’s psychology podcast episode has been sponsored by: Developmental Psychology: A Guide to Developmental and Child Psychology. Available on all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback, large print and hardback version of the book from Amazon, your local Book Store or your can buy the eBook directly from me.

Extract from Developmental Psychology: A Guide to Developmental and Child Psychology by Connor Whiteley. COPYRIGHT 2021 CONNOR WHITELEY.

CHAPTER 30: Can Children Learn From Video?

Young Children and Video

Diving into this topic in more depth, the short answer is no young children cannot learn from video.

One possible reason is because the video content often gives an inaccurate representation of the real world. But even when the video is realistic young children still have trouble learning from the video.

For example, videos are perfectly polished, so the viewer rarely gets to see what it’s really like in the real world where it’s recorded.

Does Screen Media Affect Language?

Since the studies explain the range of interesting results about this topic, it’s better if we just dive into them.

Learning from Video: Infants

Robb, Richert & Wartella (2009) researched 12 to 15-month-old infants who watched a DVD that was designed for word learning for 6 weeks. Their results showed word learning didn’t have an increase in their language abilities.

More specifically, it didn’t increase their increased receptive or expressive vocabulary. But this did rely on reporting from parents, so take the results with a pinch of salt.

However, 56% of parents said the baby video did “positively affect development” (p. 7, Rideout, 2007)

But I have no idea how they would know that?

How would parents know the DVD impacted positive and it wasn’t the natural maturation of their child that was responsible for this positive development.

Consequently, parents might not be the best source of information about what babies are learning from video.

I can certainly agree with that point!

Another study of interest is Zimmerman, Christakis, & Meltzoff (2007)’s correlational study, remember we CANNOT establish cause and effect here.

The researchers interviewed 1,009 parents of 2 to 24-month-old infants by telephone to ask about babies’ TV viewing habits, and parents completed a vocabulary checklist for the child using the MacArthur CDI.

The results showed for infants under 16 months each hour a day of TV viewing was associated with a 17 point drop in their vocabulary score.

However, this was not the case for toddlers.

I think this study is interesting because the results are possibly alarming, but this is correlational research, and we don’t know exactly what’s happening here.

But more research should be done into this area.

The final study we’ll look at is DeLoache et al., (2010) who studied 72 infants aged 12 to 18 months and they were put into groups and they watched: a video with parent interaction, a Video with no interaction, no video with just a parent teaching the infant words or they were a control group, no teaching or video.

Afterwards, there were two tests: the initial visit and the final visit.

During the initial visit, the infants were tested on 13 words from the video and the words they didn’t know became their personal ‘target’ list.

Afterwards, during the final visit, the infants were tested on their personal list and they were presented with objects in one order. Then the reverse order and the infant had to choose the object correctly both times for them to be credited with learning the word.

A bit harsh!

The results found the infants learnt very little from the baby videos and instead they learnt significantly more through parent-child interaction.

However, the parents were assessed as well.

Their assessment found a significant correlation between how much parents liked the video and how much the parents thought their children learned. With a Pearson coefficient of r = .64, and a p-value of p <.01)

Nonetheless, there was no correlation between how much parents thought their infant learnt and how well they did on the post-test.

In conclusion, parents may overestimate what their children are learning from videos.

Toddlers and Video:

So far, we’ve spoken a lot about how video affects infants, but what about toddlers?

To answer this question, the search task was created by Troseth, Saylor, & Archer (2006) who studied 24-month-old toddlers and these toddlers followed the instructions of people hiding behind a toy on the video.

So, the toddler thought the toy was talking to them.

The results showed the toddlers were 33% more likely to remember and use the information offered by the video.

Although, when the person in the video was interactive with the toddler and responding to them, this was done through CCTV. The toddlers were able to learn the information presented by the video.

Again, toddlers learn through interaction.

This is further supported by a word learning study by Roseberry et al (2013) where toddlers learnt a set of new verbs by someone teaching it to them live or being taught the verbs through a skype video call, or a pre-recorded video.

The results showed the toddler learned the words from the live interaction and the interactive video call, but not from the pre-recorded videos.

Meaning toddlers learn from interactive video and not pre-recorded ones.

Nevertheless, as much as I love these studies, it isn’t always practical to use a video call.

So, can children ever learn educational content from pre-recorded videos?

They might be able to if the interaction is ‘surrounding’ the video. For instance, an interaction is happening between the parent and child while they both watch the video?

After all, this is similar to a child having their parents read a book to them, and this helps their reading.

Content Matters:

I’ve really enjoyed this chapter and I hope you have too.

All in all content matters because the videos have to be age-appropriate and interactive content, like Dora the Explorer, is better than fast-paced or adult-directed content.

I really hope you enjoyed this developmental psychology podcast episode.

If you want to learn more, please check out:


Developmental Psychology: A Guide to Developmental and Child Psychology. Available on all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback, large print and hardback version of the book from Amazon, your local Book Store or your can buy the eBook directly from me.

Have a great day!

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