Developmental psychologists have concluded that learning videos don’t work as well as we believe. While a young child may be amused by what’s happening on the screen, it doesn’t automatically mean they can pick up new, useful information. Until they grow a bit older and can independently comprehend what’s happening on the screen, toddlers shouldn’t be watching videos all day.
A key thing that parents need to realize is that understanding what’s happening on a screen is a skill in of itself. A young brain still doesn’t understand that whatever is on a screen is not real, not an accurate representation of real things, and doesn’t contain real people or animals. Toddlers still don't have the skill of virtual information comprehension, so a screen will not help them learn.
In the perspective of the toddler, whatever is on a screen is just a random mess of flashing lights. It may capture their attention, but this doesn’t mean they are comprehending what they’re seeing and hearing. For example, objects on screen are not the same size in real life, so a child may not be able to fully identify what it is they’re seeing. Especially with camera cuts that suddenly change perspectives, the inconsistencies only confuse a toddler’s brain more.
The best way a toddler learns is actually through social interactions. When around other people, children learn to read expressions, identify someone’s feedback, and comprehend what nonverbal cues mean. They’re wired to educate themselves through interacting with others, so putting them in front of a screen won’t help with their brain development.
Learning videos, however, are very effective for preschoolers or older kids. Once they can understand symbols and have learned how to interact with a screen, watching TV programs or online videos that teach something helps kids a lot. Sesame Street, for example, greatly improved the average preschooler’s vocabulary, no matter what income bracket they came from. With the help of a patient adult, toddlers can begin to understand what a screen is and what it means to watch something. When they’re older, they can finally fully enjoy and reap the benefits of watching Cookie Monster count down the seconds until his cookies are ready.