If you, like so many grandparents, rely on Skype, FaceTime or other technology to see the beautiful faces of your brand new grandchildren, you may wonder whether the little ones understand that you are, in fact, a full-size human being.
Well, we have good news. According to this report in The Atlantic newspaper, infants can tell the difference between Bob the Builder and Nanna and Granddad.
“Babies who are pretty young are able to pick up, in particular, whether or not an adult is actually responding to them in real time,” said Elisabeth McClure, a researcher who focuses on children and media at Georgetown University.
Of course babies being babies, it’s difficult to tell what they are thinking, but evidence suggests that bubs as young as six months can tell that the people on the computer screen are interacting with them in a different way to people on the TV.
This is wonderful news for grandparents who live far from their children and use Skype to fill in the gaps between visits.
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According to Ms McClure who studied babies and video-chat technology, as many as 85 per cent of families use Skype or something similar occasionally, with 40 per cent saying they used it weekly.
What’s more, the chats were often as long as 20 minutes, which is a pretty long time to hold a little person’s attention.
“Babies are very sensitive to eye contact, physical contact, pointing at things,” Ms McClure said. She found that babies noticed when there were interruptions to the video and the level of interaction dropped.
Although babies may be clever enough to work out that they are having a conversation with a real person on Skype, there is still a gap in their understanding of how exactly their grandparents fit into the box that lives on Mum and Dad’s desk.
I’ll never forget the way my two-year-old grandson looked from me, sitting there in person, to the laptop, sizing us up with a quizzical look on his face. While I’d love to explain it to him, I think a bit of mystery surrounding Grandma is always a good thing, don’t you?
Do you use video-chat software like Skype or FaceTime to talk to your grandkids? Do you think it’s a new kind of normal for them?