Do babies understand video chatting?

2 min read

Babies may not be able to fully understand what’s going on when they’re video chatting, according to an expert from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Babies “are able to recognize voices, recognize patterns,” said Michael Rich, associate professor in Harvard Chan School’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and founder and director of the Center on Media and Child Health, in a February 4, 2016 interview on the show “Here & Now” on WBUR. “The question really becomes when they are able to decode that pattern of light and darkness on a two-dimensional screen as grandma’s face or whatever.”

Infants typically rely heavily on their senses—“Everything goes in their mouth; they taste it, they smell it, they touch it,” said Rich—but video chatting is a very sterile experience, and some babies may not like it.

Rich suggested using video chatting services like FaceTime or Skype “when grandma is now 600 miles away and you’re not going to see her for a while.” He said it’s also important “for the grandparents to establish themselves as real, three-dimensional, living and breathing people before they start the video chatting because otherwise they’re just an image on the screen. So they’re the same as Fred Rogers or Elmo.”