For more than a century, parents have been warned about the supposed dangers of letting children under 3 watch moving-image media. But the evidence on which these warnings are based remains remarkably limited. Crucial failings today include the rarity of ethnographic studies in the home, a prioritisation of research on “digital technologies” and an almost total neglect of toddlers’ early cultural experiences with media other than print. This chapter starts from the proposition that research on children and media needs to move away from a preoccupation with risk and to place more emphasis on the crucial but much-neglected 0–3 period, in which, as well as learning to talk, infants and toddlers start learning to understand several significant and unique cultural forms, of which moving-image media (referred to here as “movies”) are probably the most prominent for many. Debates about whether we do all have to learn how to understand movies, and the problems of studying toddlers, are discussed. Based on the author’s own research and drawing on embodied cognition theories as a rich source of insights into toddler behaviour, three examples of toddler viewing behaviour are described (focused attention, emotional responses and self-directed viewing) and interpreted as potential evidence of learning in progress. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the challenges that must be confronted by those who wish to explore toddlers’ “movie-learning” further.
Part of the book: Mind and Matter