Children are comforted by repetition.
I've read "Go Dogs Go" to my 2-year-old son every night for the last month. My older kids are obsessed with "Minecraft" and repeatedly watch YouTube videos of other kids playing the game.
So it was no surprise when I downloaded the new Vine Kids app that my kids would approve.
Vine Kids is a collection of short, looping videos based on the popular Vine app. The original Vine app lets users take 6-second videos, edit and upload them for the world to view and share.
"Young children love repetition," said Dr. Jessica Horst, psychology professor at the University of Sussex, England. "When children encounter something new, they first develop a familiarity and prefer watching the same thing over and over."
I often post my Vines on Facebook and Twitter. However, when I first started using the Vine app, it was clear that some of videos were not appropriate for my kids.
Some Vine videos play on adult situations, use crude humor and would take more time to explain to my kids than it would to watch multiple loops of the 6-second clips.
With the original Vine app, I couldn't find a way to censor the inappropriate stuff.
Vine Kids fixed that.
The interface is simple: Swipe your finger across the screen to move to the next video. There’s no menu, only a few quirky sounds when you touch the screen and a bunch of videos.
Horst and her colleagues regularly study repetitive reading activities. Her most recent research, published in Acta Psychologica in 2014, found that children learned through repetition, in part, because the material was predictable.
This is probably true then for apps like Vine Kids that offer the same videos in predictable fashion.
According to Horst, my kids are not only comforted by the Vine Kids app, they're probably learning, too.
"You can sometimes see this in preschool children’s repeated requests to read the same story or in babies' desires to continuously press buttons on a toy to watch how it reacts over and over again," Horst said.
Horst suggests that as children encounter the same shows and books, they notice more subtle pieces of information each time.
This desire to learn by watching the same content repeatedly probably doesn't wane with age. And it's probably why I'm captivated by videos posted to the grown-up version of Vine.
"Consider if you have ever watched a thriller or mystery a second time," Horst said. "The general plot and characters are somewhat familiar, so it’s easier to notice the clues that had been there all along.
"Similarly, when children watch a show or hear a story again they can focus on the exact words, some of which they didn’t know, or the fine gestures and reactions made by the characters," Horst added.
Remember that apps such as Vine Kids are great for entertainment and learning, but they should only be used as a supplement to your child’s education.
Vine Kids is available on the iOS platform.
~ A version of the column appeared in the Sunday, February 8, 2015 "Connected" section of The Vindicator newspaper.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is special assistant to the provost and professor of communication in the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes on a variety of topics including communication technologies, relationships, and sports (with an emphasis on fandom). His work has appeared in Mahoning Matters as well as The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers.