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Georgene Troseth - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

Georgene Troseth

Associate Professor of Psychology | Vanderbilt University


An expert in how toddlers' brains process (and learn from) what they see on screens, TV and video chat.


Georgene Troseth's research focuses on young children's symbolic development, including their understanding of representational artifacts and media (pictures, video images, touchscreens, video chat and scale models). Current research involves designing an avatar in an eBook, using Artificial Intelligence, to support parents' use of "dialogic questioning" while reading picture books with their children. Troseth is specifically interested in children's representations of the mental states — intentions, beliefs, desires, and knowledge — of other people.

Areas of Expertise (12)

Dialogic Questioning




Child Development

Developmental Science

Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience

Children and Youth



Video Chat


Education (1)

University of Illinois: Ph.D.

Affiliations (1)

  • Vanderbilt Kennedy Center

Selected Media Appearances (10)

Kids Are Growing Up Wired — And That's Changing Their Brains

Discover Magazine  online


“In general, under the age of 3, it’s relatively [more] difficult for children to learn from video or from another kind of screen than it is to learn from another person,” says Vanderbilt University psychologist Georgene Troseth.

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How to manage kids' screen time during coronavirus isolation

Mashable  online


Georgene Troseth, associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, who has conducted some of that research, said parents often worry their kids will miss out on some other important activity when they fall back on technology.

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Why your toddler can’t learn from a screen

The Hechinger Report  online


Troseth said toddlers often can’t learn from screens, even from an interactive video, because they are unable to understand that the person on the screen is real, relevant and represents an actual adult. Around age three is when children can make this connection, Troseth said. “They have figured out a picture can represent something real or an idea in your head…That’s part of this idea of looking at a screen and realizing there’s a person there who’s teaching you.”

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School Bans Harry Potter

Sunrise Australia  tv


Georgene Troseth on a Catholic school ban of Harry Potter books after consulting an exorcist who claims the spells are real

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Toddler Learning Videos Don’t Work Because Young Brains Don’t Get Screens

Fatherly  online


“Babies find it hard to go across the digital divide,” says Rachel Barr, a developmental psychologist at Georgetown University who studies infant cognition. Young children don’t intuitively understand that a video represents something in the real world. It’s a tricky concept to make sense of, Barr explains, and they need help navigating the digital world.

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Raised by YouTube

The Atlantic  online


To be clear, it’s hard to make videos that very young children can learn from. (Johnson’s doctoral adviser, Georgene Troseth, was part of the team that demonstrated this.) Children under 2 struggle to translate the world of the screen to the one they see around them, with all its complexity and three-dimensionality.

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Why I use Harry Potter to teach a college course on child development

The Conversation  online


As the course evolved over the years, I found another benefit of using J.K. Rowling’s famous books: The story of Harry Potter, who lost both his parents to traumatic deaths at an early age, offers new college students insights that might help them better appreciate their own resilience.

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The Algorithm That Makes Preschoolers Obsessed With YouTube

The Atlantic  online


Young kids are also just predisposed to becoming obsessive about relatively narrow interests. (Elephants! Trains! The moon! Ice cream!) Around the 18-month mark, many toddlers develop “extremely intense interests,” says Georgene Troseth, an associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University. Which is part of why kids using apps like YouTube Kids often select videos that portray familiar concepts—ones that feature a cartoon character or topic they’re already drawn to. This presents a research challenge, however. If kids are just tapping a thumbnail of a video because they recognize it, it’s hard to say how much they’re learning—or how different the app environment really is from other forms of play.

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No Snapchat In The Bedroom? An Online Tool To Manage Kids' Media Use

NPR  radio


So-called "co-viewing" is crucial for younger children. "It should be like reading a book together," says Georgene Troseth, an associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University. "You should be talking about what you're watching." As with books, the goal is to help children compare what they're watching to the real world. That's a valuable skill to work on, since "that's how adults use media: we use it to get information or to be entertained," she says.

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Screen Rules For Your Baby

Newsweek  online


"Touchscreen devices and video are part of the environment of childhood now," explains Dr. Georgene Troseth of Vanderbilt University. "In the context of exposure to lots of real-world experiences with other people and real objects, a limited amount of exposure to screens is unlikely to harm development."

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Selected Articles (5)

An enhanced eBook facilitates parent–child talk during shared reading by families of low socioeconomic status

Early Childhood Research Quarterly

Georgene L Troseth, Gabrielle A Strouse, Israel Flores, Zachary D Stuckelman, Colleen Russo Johnson

2019 Language input plays a key role in children’s language development, but children from families of low socioeconomic status often get much less input compared to more advantaged peers. In “dialogic reading” (Whitehurst et al., 1988), parents are trained to ask children open-ended questions while reading, which effectively builds expressive vocabulary in at-risk children.

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Promoting Preschoolers’ Emotional Competence Through Prosocial TV and Mobile App Use

Media Psychology

Eric E Rasmussen, Gabrielle A Strouse, Malinda J Colwell, Colleen Russo Johnson, Steven Holiday, Kristen Brady, Israel Flores, Georgene Troseth, Holly D Wright, Rebecca L Densley, Mary S Norman

2019 This study explored the relationship between preschoolers’ exposure to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood television programming and its accompanying mobile app and preschoolers’ emotion knowledge and use of emotion regulation strategies.

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Co-viewing supports toddlers’ word learning from contingent and noncontingent video

Journal of experimental child psychology

Gabrielle A Strouse, Georgene L Troseth, Katherine D O'Doherty, Megan M Saylor

2018 Social cues are one way young children determine that a situation is pedagogical in nature—containing information to be learned and generalized. However, some social cues (e.g., contingent gaze and responsiveness) are missing from prerecorded video, a potential reason why toddlers’ language learning from video can be inefficient compared with their learning directly from a person.

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Let’s Chat: On-Screen Social Responsiveness Is Not Sufficient to Support Toddlers’ Word Learning From Video

Frontiers in Psychology

Georgene L Troseth, Gabrielle Ann Strouse, Brian Nicholas Verdine, Megan Michelle Saylor

2018 Joint engagement with a speaker is one cue children may use to establish that an interaction is relevant to them and worthy of attention. People on pre-recorded video cannot engage contingently with a viewer in shared experiences, possibly leading to deficits in learning from video relative to learning from responsive face-to-face encounters.

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All tapped out: Touchscreen interactivity and young children’s word learning

Frontiers in Psychology

Colleen Russo-Johnson, Georgene Troseth, Charlotte Duncan, Almaz Mesghina

2017 Touchscreen devices differ from passive screen media in promoting physical interaction with events on the screen. Two studies examined how young children’s screen-directed actions related to self-regulation (Study 1) and word learning (Study 2). In Study 1, 30 2-year-old children’s tapping behaviors during game play were related to their self-regulation, measured using Carlson’s snack task: girls and children with high self-regulation tapped significantly less during instruction portions of an app (including object labeling events) than did boys and children with low self-regulation.

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