Infant and Toddler Engagement in Video Mediated Interactions
When families – especially those with very young children under 2 years old – are geographically separated, forming warm family relationships can be a challenge. Fortunately, rapid developments in communication technology are transforming our ability to interact at a distance. Families with school-aged children have reported using video chat as a method of staying in touch with remote family members; however, little is currently known about whether families with children under two are using video chat, and how often. Furthermore, few studies have evaluated whether babies and toddlers are able to use this technology successfully and whether they are emotionally engaged by it.The present dissertation, in the form of three studies, explores the role that video chat technology plays in facilitating communication between very young children and their distant family members. In the first study, an electronic media usage survey is utilized to assess the degree to which D.C.-area families with children under 2 currently use video chat. In the second study, a naturalistic observational method is employed to examine the way families use video chat at home with their children under 2 years of age. In the third study, a controlled experimental study is used to systematically compare the emotional engagement of 6- to 12-month-olds during mother-baby interactions taking place either face-to-face, via video chat, or via non-contingent video.The findings as a whole suggest that video chat is a promising mode of remote communication for families with babies and toddlers: it is accessible to families and used by them with regularity; when it is used, it is done fairly successfully; and the kinds of sensitive behaviors that are used with babies face-to-face can also be used to engage positively with babies via video chat.
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