Infants and young children are spending increasing time with interactive touchscreen devices. Though it is known that early screen time has a negative impact on learning and attention, what are the effects of an “interactive” screen partner? Do these devices have a negative impact on infant-caregiver interaction?

This project was led by our honors student, Sarah Takagaki, and is currently in revision for submission. We investigated the effect of interactions with touchscreen media on parent-infant interaction and word learning.


Two studies examined the effect of touchscreen media on attention-following and parent-infant interaction. In Study 1 (N = 15, Mage = 11.83 months), infants were more likely to gaze at and touch a target toy when following the attention of a live – rather than onscreen – experimenter. In Study 2 (N = 9, Mage = 16.9 months), caregivers were more likely to label and point at pictures when interacting with a real book rather than a touchscreen app version of the book. Number of verbal labels was predictive of words identified by the infant. These data suggest that early learning (i.e., attention-following) and parental interaction are higher during live social interaction than during interaction with touchscreen devices.

Keywords: touchscreen, video deficit effect, attention following