The Formal Features of Digital Media for Infants and Toddlers: A Content Analysis
Children as young as 3 months old are using digital media, and the media market of videos designed for infants and toddlers is rapidly expanding. These videos are mostly marketed as educational tools for very young children. Formal features are production techniques that provide specific visual and auditory means of representing content, and they can have a large influence on a child’s ability to learn from these “educational” programs. Research on media for older children has shown that certain features are more conducive for children to learn from digital media than other features. Despite the extensive research that has been done on how preschool-aged children are affected by digital media, there is little information about how infants and toddlers are affected by videos or if they can learn anything of value from viewing experiences. This study evaluates which formal features are present in the digital media designed for infants and toddlers in light of two prominent theories of viewing- the perceptual salience model and the comprehensibility model. A sample of DVDs designed for children under age three was coded in six different passes. Overall, these videos used some features that aid children’s understanding of content, such as female narration, which supports the comprehensibility hypothesis. However, infant-directed videos predominantly used some perceptually salient features that make comprehension difficult for children, such as rapid pace, many camera cuts and visual and auditory special effects. Future research should use these findings to study how infants and toddlers respond to the digital media designed for them.
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