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Children learn language from Skype chats, reports AboutKidsHealth

AboutKidsHealth, leading online Canadian source for children’s health information, reports that toddlers can learn language from video chats just as well as live interactions, according to a new study out of the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences.

Researchers also say that teaching toddlers language via video chats may be a better educational tool than television, further promoting language development.

The study involved 42 toddlers, aged 24 months to 30 months (24 of which were boys). Each child participated in ‘training sessions,’ where a new word was taught in one of three ways: video-chat training (using Skype), real-life interaction between the researcher and child, and a pre-recorded video of the researcher teaching the new word.

The children were then tested on how well they learned the new word by their ability to use the word and point to the related action, either when prompted to or on their own. Based on their results, researchers conclude that children are able to learn language from video chats just as well as live interactions. Children were also just as engaged during live video-chat, by waving, pointing, and answering questions.

An additional finding also suggests that children are unable to learn as well from pre-recorded videos. This is because children cannot engage in a lively and responsive interaction with the television, say researchers.

“Children learn best in sensitive and responsive environments,” claims Sarah Roseberry, who presented the study at the 2011 Society for Research and Child Development (SRCD) Conference in Montreal. “Children’s programming in which characters ask viewers to respond may not be as effective at teaching children as live interactions in which social partners actually respond to children.”

“One of the reasons we became interested in this study was from hearing parents’ anecdotes about children Skyping with grandparents who lived in a different country,” says Sarah. “This data suggests that video chat can be a powerful way to keep kids in touch with out-of-town relatives.”

The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia, and the University of Delaware.

Nira Datta

Please visit AboutKidsHealth for additional education and children’s health resources or for the original article, go to:

AboutKidsHealth is the leading Canadian online source for trusted child health information, and has a scope and scale that is unique in the world. Developed by SickKids Learning Institute in collaboration with over 300 paediatric health specialists, the site provides parents, children, and community health care providers with evidence-based information about everyday parenting information, health and complex medical conditions, from how children learn language from Skype to using the Microsoft Kinect in surgery. AboutKidsHealth adheres to rigorous quality standards for the creation and review of health information.

Visit to find out more.

For more information, please contact:
Sue Mackay, Communications
The Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M5G 1X8
Tel: 416-813-5165

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