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Does FaceTime "Count" as Screen Time for Young Children?

5 research-based tips for managing video chatting with a young child.

Key points

  • Research finds that young children can learn from FaceTime and other types of video chatting to a greater extent than typical screen time.
  • It may be difficult for some young children to initially engage with and understand video chatting.
  • Learning can be enhanced when parents help children make sense of what they see on the screen and how it relates to real life.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents avoid screen time for children younger than 18 to 24 months. This recommendation is based on research consistently showing that children younger than two years have difficulty learning from screens. Given that children have difficulty learning from "screen time," it follows that the time spent on this activity should be limited since it may replace time learning in the "real world." So, what “counts” as screen time? What about FaceTime, a Zoom music class, or any other type of video chatting? Can young children learn from this type of screen time, or should all screens be avoided until a child is at least two years?

Learning From Video Chatting

First, research finds that children can learn from video chatting and are more likely to learn from video chatting (or any type of interactive and responsive video) than from noninteractive screen time, such as TV shows or movies. Research indicates that children as young as 17 months can learn language, movements, and patterns through video chat. In addition, children can learn social information from video chatting (that is, they begin to “know” the person they are chatting with and recognize them at a later occasion).

In particular, this line of research finds that it may not be the presence of a screen that interferes with learning but that the screen is not responsive and interactive with the child. In other words, a toddler may be more likely to learn from any screen when a responsive interaction with another person is involved, such as a virtual music class, or even watching a television show while a parent explains the show to them.

However, it is also important to note that many young children do not engage with FaceTime initially, and children may still be more likely to learn more efficiently from real-life interactions than video chatting.

5 Tips for Managing Video Chatting With a Young Child

So how can you help your child to get the most out of FaceTime or video chatting? Here are five evidence-based tips for managing video chatting with a young child:

  1. Be present with your child during the video chat. Model responding to the other person, asking them questions, and initiating interactions. Research finds that you can enhance learning through video chat by being next to your child and modeling how to respond to the person on the screen.
  2. Point and label anything you see on the screen and explain how it is relevant. Research suggests that learning may be enhanced when you are helping them to understand the information on the screen.
  3. Make video chatting more fun for children. Play peek-a-boo, share some of your favorite toys, read a book, have a dance party, play a game, sing a song, or make funny noises.
  4. Once your child understands FaceTime and is interested in it, use it as a tool to give yourself a break. Ask grandparents or friends or family to read to your child or sing them a song. Research finds that children may learn as much from a video chat book reading as when you read them a book in real life.
  5. Use video chat to keep in touch with friends and family that you cannot see. Research finds that increased video chatting increases feelings of closeness.

In summary, if your child is younger than two years, they may be more likely to learn from interactive, responsive screen time, such as FaceTime or Zoom, than typical screen time. By helping your child to understand and engage in video chatting, you may be able to maintain closeness with friends and relatives who live far away and even get a break for yourself!


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Myers, L. J., LeWitt, R. B., Gallo, R. E., & Maselli, N. M. (2017). Baby FaceTime: Can toddlers learn from online video chat?. Developmental Science, 20(4), e12430.

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Strouse, G. A., McClure, E., Myers, L. J., Zosh, J. M., Troseth, G. L., Blanchfield, O., ... & Barr, R. (2021). Zooming through development: Using video chat to support family connections. Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, 3(4), 552–571.

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