Q: As a mother and a student examining media as a social issue, I’m concerned that technology is decreasing youth’s ability to communicate face-to-face, largely because most of their communication and activities are done through a screen. Is there evidence for this concern?
~ Face Facts, Bridgeport, CT
A: Dear Face,
Young people walk hand in hand, talking to others on their phones. They sit at a restaurant together, staring down at their mobile screens. It is now rare to see youth without a phone in hand, earbuds plugged in, texting, instagramming or tweeting. And with all of their scrolling, playing, photographing and status updating, they often miss out on the people and experiences happening around them. They have more connectivity than ever – and far less connectedness to others and to the world. …
When I think of lip readers, I imagine adults who have worked for years to master the skill. There’s no denying that to become an efficient lip reader takes a lot of practice, but as it turns out the root of the talent is innate in all people.
New research suggests we all learn to “read” lips as babies, and studying mouths plays a very big role in how and when babies learn to talk. Scientists have discovered that starting around 6 months, babies start studying the mouths of the adults talking to them, instead of focusing solely on the eyes. In doing so they begin to learn how to position their own mouths to form certain sounds, including the much anticipated first utterance of “mama” and “dada.”
Kevin Nugent, PhD, founder and Director of the Brazelton Institute at Children’s, a research and training organization dedicated to studying the development of newborns and young children, was recently interviewed by Fox News to get his take on how babies learn to speak by watching our lips.
In addition to language development, Dr. Nugent is an expert in how environment affects other developmental milestone of childhood. Here’s a recent Thriving blog where the doctor discusses how the style of daycare a child attends can affect her development. He’s also the author of “Your Baby is Speaking to You: A Visual Guide to the Amazing Behaviors of your Newborn and Growing Baby.”
by Sarah Teasdale, MD
She was at home with her 4-year-old who had a sore throat and was throwing up. I could hear my niece retching in the background, the dog was barking and her infant son crying. My sister was worried and needed reassurance. I was in medical mode, speaking in technical terms: ‘Is she febrile? Is the emesis bloody or bilious? Any sick contacts?” I was making her more nervous. A dish fell to the floor on the other end of the phone and my sister sighed. “I’m just going to call mom.” She hung up.
My sister has plenty of education, and as a journalist she has a large vocabulary. She knows what the word “febrile” means, but she wanted me to say “fever.” She wanted the clearest possible language because, in the middle of all the vomiting, crying and barking, she had no time to focus on translation. …
Media expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, answers your questions about media use. Last week, he discussed a report detailing just how much media kids are using.
Here’s this week’s question:
Q: In your NPR Parents’ Journal interview, you stated that children under the age of 30 months do not learn anything about language from TV programs, but I disagree. My 17-month-old daughter is not allowed to watch entertainment TV, but since she was 9 months old, she has watched a baby signing language DVD series about 3 times a week. Now she knows about 80 signs (and about 60 spoken words), and learning sign language as a family has greatly enhanced our relationships because she can tell us what she needs without crying and throwing a tantrum. I feel strongly that the 1-2 hours of media exposure a week are making her toddlerhood much less frustrating and are worth whatever negative effects are possible. I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter.
–Serious about Signing, Baltimore, MD …