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Toddlers can learn to communicate from videos

Children as young as two years old can learn certain communication skills from a video, such as how to use signs in sign language, scientists have found.

Washington: Children as young as two years old can learn certain communication skills from a video, such as how to use signs in sign language, scientists have found.

Children taught by videos perform similarly in tests when compared to babies taught by their parents, researchers said.

The results contradict previous research, which showed little evidence of learning from video in children under the age of two, or less robust learning than more traditional forms of parent instruction.

Led by researchers at Emory University, the study found that babies were consistently able to understand the signs and pick out a photo of the corresponding object after watching an instructional video for 15 minutes, four times a week for three weeks.

Babies who watched the video performed just as well in tests as babies who had been taught signs by their parents under similar conditions but without a video.

Importantly, after a week without instruction, babies in all experimental groups were still able to produce the signs - a much more difficult task than simply recognising them.

However, babies in parent-supported groups were able to produce a greater number of signs overall.

Four groups of parents and children participated in the study: (video with parent, video only, parent instruction only, control).

Parents were instructed not to sign to their children or provide sign instruction of any kind outside of the video or parent instruction learning session.

"This is the first controlled study to show that babies as young as 15 months can learn communicative skills from commercial videos just as well as from parents," said Shoshana Dayanim, a lead researcher on the project, post doctoral researcher in psychology at Emory when the study was conducted and now on the faculty at Keiser University.

Babies were shown the 15-minute video four times each week.

They were then brought to the Emory University Child Study Centre and shown photos they'd never seen before of common objects (including a shoe, hat, airplane, fish and cookie) for which they'd learned a sign in the video and asked to select the picture that matched a sign produced by the researcher.

Control group babies who had neither seen the video nor received parental instruction could not produce or select a sign to label the photo.

Babies who had watched the video performed similarly to babies taught by parents. A group of babies who watched the video with their parents performed on tests similarly to babies who had watched the video unsupervised.

When the babies were tested after a week without parent instruction or video watching, the infants not only recognised which photos went with which signs, but also were able to produce the signs themselves from memory.

Infants who had been taught by their parents retained more of the signs during testing than babies who had watched the video.