If you live far away from your friends or family, video chat programs – like Skype or FaceTime – probably feel like a godsend. For the first time in history, it’s possible to see people on the other side of the word in real time and to catch up over your respective cups of coffee or glasses of wine.
For parents with babies, video chat can seem even more precious; it allows grandparents and other relatives in distant states or countries to see a brand new baby laugh or watch a toddler teeter as they take their first steps. Aunt, uncle, grandma, or grandpa can read stories to kids, watch them play with their favorite toys, and create and maintain relationships in a way that was simply not possible 20 years ago.
While there’s no denying that this technology is convenient – or even downright miraculous – many parents still have concerns when it comes to exposing their kids to screens. As you consider using video chat with your family, you may have questions like:
Is Skype safe for my baby?
Is video chat recommended for babies by the experts?
Can FaceTime create a real connection my baby will remember?
In HelloJoey’s “Screens Without Screams” kit, we explore the latest research about how screens affect a developing baby’s body and brain – and how that impacts their behavior. We also provide expert recommendations about screen-time and offer ideas for creating rules about screens and content as your child grows.
Screen-time recommendations for babies
You may have heard that babies shouldn’t be exposed to screens – and that’s true, with one notable exception. The 2016 American Association of Pediatricians recommendations state that infants and toddlers 18 months or younger should avoid all screens except in the case of video chatting. For toddlers 18 to 24 months, the recommendations allow for parents to introduce high-quality programming, along with continued video chatting.
Initially, experts recommended no screen time at all for infants – but that was revised to allow video chatting because parents were reporting that platforms like Skype or FaceTime were helping their little ones maintain relationships. In fact, more and more parents are allowing their infants and toddlers to use video chat. One survey of parents with children between the ages of six and 24 found 85% have allowed their babies to video chat at least once, and 37% do it on a weekly basis.
While studies are still ongoing, current results show that Skype is safe for your baby. Researchers have shown babies respond better to video chat with a real person on the other end than they do to pre-recorded video. Video chat also was found to qualify as one of the “socially-contingent interactions” that help infants with language learning.
Do video “connections” actually matter to my toddler?
While there’s little doubt that video chatting with your baby is meaningful for the adults on the other side of the screen, can using Skype actually help your child form a connection with someone they’ve never truly seen or touched? Do these experiences even matter to your baby – and will your child remember them?
Psychologist Dr. Ruth Burtman says yes – these experiences do matter, and your child will remember them. “They may not remember in concrete ways, but we hold on to feelings from these early years in an implicit way that doesn't even have to be verbalized. We have warm feelings about people that we've spent time with, and we remember it on an emotional and a sensory level.”
In short, your kids will keep those warm fuzzy feelings about grandma and grandpa in ways they can’t even articulate. Video chatting is safe for your baby, and it’s also beneficial in forming connections that really matter.
While screens have been shown to affect the way a young child’s brain develops and some content has been linked to aggression or behavioral issues, it doesn’t mean that screens are completely evil and should be avoided entirely. Like anything, it depends on how we use them – and how much we use them.
Screens have the potential to connect us across distances long and short, and video chatting lets your baby and your relatives create a bond no matter where they’re located. As your baby grows, you also can use screens to:
enhance your own connection with co-viewing and mediation
learn new skills or information together
show your kid how to make smart content choices that support your values
teach your child about limits and boundaries as you create a family media plan to use screens in a healthy way
Want to learn more about “Screens Without Screams?" Start your path to a solid parenting foundation in just 10 minutes a day. Check out the HelloJoey App.