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Video calls are how many babies first meet their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, and other people who love them.
Long before most babies toddle or talk, they begin to make sophisticated inferences about the world around them.And video chat appears to be, conceptually, much easier for babies to grasp than a phone conversation.“It turns out that babies are really bad with phones,” Barr said.“Because they can’t really talk and so there’s no back-and-forth ...By as young as 3 months old, newborns can form expectations based on physical principles like gravity, speed, and momentum.Scientists at several universities told me they now have evidence, to the likely delight of far-flung grandparents everywhere, that infants can also tell the difference between, say, a broadcast of and a video call with their actual grandfather.While interfaces like Skype, Face Time, and Google Hangout are still relatively new, this area of research builds on decades of experiments involving children and electronic screens.
Researchers have long studied how passive television viewing affects young children, and how well children can learn from watching educational programming, but scientists are only just beginning to figure out how babies understand screen interactions with another person in real time.
So despite the ream of technological limitations that can accompany Internet-based video chats, even infants can cope well when a call doesn’t go as planned.
“Just saying something like, ‘The internet’s not working,’” Barr said.
“A 4-month-old can barely hold their head up but if there’s a tape delay, they’re not as responsive and they get upset by it,” said Georgene Troseth, an associate professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University.
“Really tiny babies pick up on the social responsiveness of a person.
And many parents of young children reported using video chat with their kids even though the kids weren’t allowed to watch television.