Is Skype good for babies? Recent research points to an encouraging answer to this question.
I grew up in Perth and fled to Sydney for the bright lights of fame and fortune at the first chance I got. I was 19 and I never looked back, even though those lights only ever flickered briefly before the bulbs blew.
Actually, I did look back, often, to my beloved family in the west. Especially after my son came along. The distance felt huge and I knew my parents were desperate to see their little grandson as he grew, so thank heaven for Skype. We talked twice a week to my folks and to my husband’s family, who have the audacity to be spread across Canada.
You can’t help but wonder what little babies are thinking as they blink at the on-screen images of their relatives. Do they recognise that it’s their family? Can they tell the difference between The Wiggles and their own flesh and blood or is it all just moving images on a screen?
Recent research has found that small children do understand when they’re seeing someone in real time. According to a report in US publication The Atlantic, scientists discovered that children can tell the difference between a video call and a TV show, even from infancy. Georgetown University’s Children and Media Researcher, Elisabeth McClure, told The Atlantic that babies can indeed pick up visual indicators and decipher whether what they’re seeing on screen is responding to them.
I can hear my son’s grandmother in Canada cheering from here.
McClure’s studies found that families around America are increasingly using Skype and other forms of video chat on a regular basis to stay in touch with relatives who are separated by distance. This way of communicating is the norm nowadays for small children, who don’t see it as anything exceptional.
And not only does research show that babies understand when they are talking to someone on video chat, they thrive on it. Before they’re able to talk they take their cues from actions, so having the eye contact and being able to see the facial expressions of a loved one is less confusing for them than trying to have a conversation over the phone.