Recent work is focusing on social learning. It says that infants and young children learn from imitation and by following the actions of those around them, adopting mannerisms and speech patterns. A new study sought to compare television/computers and audio versus face-to-face human interaction in learning.
The bad news for companies hawking those Baby Einstein (not to pick on them - we just don't know the names of any other ones) is that the nine-month-old American children who were exposed to Chinese by using three approaches - an auditory soundtrack, a DVD with picture and sound, and live human interaction - while playing and reading books were found to quickly learn the basic aspects of Chinese with live human interaction but those exposed to Chinese through the auditory soundtrack and DVD showed no learning at all.
What about multitasking? Cell phones, instant messaging and other computer programs allow children to multitask, which may increase efficiency, but Andrew Meltzoff and colleagues at the University of Washington who are studying the 'Science of Learning' say that, "We're not sure of the long-term consequences of raising children in a digital world with the level of multitasking that there is, and perhaps a cut-back on face-to-face social interaction."
For better or for worse, our means of learning and communicating are evolving. What remains clear for now is that social interaction is crucial to how children learn and comprehend the world around them.