How facetime can help bring families together

While we often hear about too much screen time being detrimental to children, it appears that there is an exception to the technological rule: FaceTime, or any other kind of video chatting.

A new study by a team of Lafayette College psychology students has revealed that FaceTime is so much more than just screen time entertainment with children being able to interact and learn during FaceTime sessions.
 
The Australian Government Department of Health guidelines discourages screen time in under two year olds because screen time can detract from other developmental activities that may be more beneficial, but also language development may fall behind in children who watch too much media.
 
The research has shown that unlike plopping your child in front of the TV or iPad, a video chat can promote learning and interactivity.
 
"In this study, we tested whether young children form relationships with and learn from people via video chat," says developmental psychologist, Professor Lauren J. Myers from the Lafayette Kids Lab at Lafayette College in her report.
 
The study evaluated one to two year olds and compared their learning from FaceTime or recorded videos. It was discovered that the live FaceTime yielded greater learning, and interaction such as imitating behaviours like clapping, learning new words and patterns.
 
According to the study, children begin to get something out of live video interaction at about 17 months old and they understand that the person they are looking at is someone they know and with whom they have a relationship.
 
"They start to understand who that person is on the screen, and they're able to get something meaningful out of the live video interaction with them," says Myers.
 
The interaction certainly is meaningful for many families across the globe. In some cases, it is the only regular form of communication and interaction and it allows relationships to form and grow even though oceans may separate family members.
Kids video calling a loved one
Kate Rhodes has found that FaceTime is a savior for her, as her family all live in the United Kingdom while she raises her two children in Sydney’s inner west.
 
“I use FaceTime because it’s awesome. Much better than a phone call. It is almost like being in the same room as the person you're talking to,” says Kate.
 
Kate and her girls use the app a couple of times a week and the benefits it has had for the relationships with their maternal grandparents and aunt and cousins reaches not only the children but also Kate.
 
“FaceTime has allowed my kids to have a close relationship with my family who are on the other side of the word. We chat regularly to my folks and also to my sister and her kids. They chat most to my mum. As well as chatting, she reads them stories, plays games with them, and listens to home readers. Sometimes she will FaceTime with them while I'm getting jobs done. It's like she is babysitting, even though she is on the other side of the world,” she says.
 
With all of us spreading across the globe further than ever before, it’s technology such as this that eases the visceral pull that is homesickness.
 
“FaceTime basically means that I can bear to live on the other side of the world. It would be very hard if my kids didn't have a relationship with my family. It makes me feel ok about the distance.” 
 
Next time you’re tempted to use the television as a babysitter, perhaps you should find a distantly located relative to help with some constructive screen time.

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