The American Academy of Pediatrics'recommends that children under two refrain from watching television or videos on the grounds that infant viewing is potentially harmful to development. Despite this warning, infant-targeted video and television shows are flourishing, and many programs are marketed as educational and beneficial to infant development. Research investigating the impact of media viewing on infants'cognitive development is limited and mostly correlational. The primary goal of this study is to investigate experimentally infants'ability to learn from commercially available `educational'infant videos. The proposed study will be the first to investigate infants'ability to learn from TV using a longitudinal, experimental design. Specifically, the proposed study investigates the unique and combined contributions of isolated learning from television and learning from parental input on children's communicative development. The study capitalizes upon the finding that hearing infants at the onset of word learning also frequently utilize symbolic gestures, known as """"""""Baby Signs"""""""" to refer to objects, actions and events. This is a form of communicative development that is similar to that of language acquisition in its functionality, age of acquisition, and early developmental trajectory, but unlike spoken language, is not pervasively reinforced by parents in general. The common function and cognitive demands of sign and word learning in conjunction with the ability to control exposure to signs systematically renders it an ideal arena for testing the independent influences of video and parental input on communicative development. Commercially available videos designed specifically to instruct children in the acquisition of """"""""Baby Signs"""""""" will be employed. The proposed study is a three-month longitudinal investigation of infants'success at learning """"""""baby signs"""""""" starting at 14 to 16 months of age. Participants in all conditions will be assessed three times: before, mid way and at the conclusion of the experiment. Infants in the video alone condition will view segments of a commercially available educational video introduction to baby signs 15 minutes per day, at least three days per week, with no parental involvement in the learning process. Those in the parent instruction condition will learn signs from their parents using still photos of referents without any video exposure. Those in the supported video condition will co-view the videos with a parent who is actively producing and encouraging production of the signs during viewing and who reinforces any sign production that occurs outside the viewing environment. Infants in the no sign control condition, will not be exposed to signs at all. This study has important implications not only for the value of signing programs for infants, but for the use of educational video materials with infants and toddlers more generally.
This study will provide critical experimental evaluation of the American Academy of Pediatrics'recommendation that children under two do not watch TV or videos. It will investigate the potential hazards as well as the potential utility of educational video materials targeted at infants and toddlers.
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