Even Infants Learn Better When a Friend Is Around
Peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing — especially for infants. Babies learn best when they have company, suggests a new study from the Universities of Connecticut and Washington.
The study reinforces previous research that has found older kids benefit from learning together. It also underscores the importance of interaction during kids’ screen time from the start; the 9-month-old babies in the study, who were monitored as they watched instructional language videos, are the youngest to ever be studied in this regard.
“Novelty increased learning,” says study author Patricia K. Kuhl, the chair of early childhood learning at the University of Washington. “What this study introduces for the first time is that part of the reason we learn better when we learn collaboratively is that a social partner increases arousal, and arousal in turn increases learning. Social partners not only provide information by showing us how to do things, but also provide motivation for learning.”
The study involved 31 infants who were randomly selected to either watch videos solo or with a partner. Children were given controlling power of their video viewing experience with touchscreen facilities. The babies were sharp, quickly learning that touching the screen activated the video.
The findings suggested neural evidence of immature development in children who viewed the videos individually, while those learning in pairs displayed a mature learning pattern from the session. In particular, researchers found infants who were paired together for screen time exhibited more advanced sound processing in their brains, than infants who experienced the videos solo.
The team further emphasizes that amount of screen time, number of videos viewed, touches to the screen and infants’ ability to move did not play a role in the differences between single viewers and paired viewers.
The study concludes that the problem with screen time may not be in introducing kids to devices at an early age, but the lack of interactivity necessary to learn.