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Georgene Troseth

Associate Professor of Psychology

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.

Media Appearances

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

    “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.

    April 13th, 2020

  • How to manage kids' screen time during coronavirus isolation

    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.

    March 16th, 2020

  • Why your toddler can’t learn from a screen

    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.”

    September 19th, 2019

  • School Bans Harry Potter

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

    September 7th, 2019

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

    “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.

    August 12th, 2019

  • Raised by YouTube

    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.

    November 1st, 2018

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

    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.

    August 1st, 2018

  • The Algorithm That Makes Preschoolers Obsessed With YouTube

    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.

    July 25th, 2017

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

    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.

    October 21st, 2016

  • Screen Rules For Your Baby

    "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."

    March 22nd, 2015