We all know by now that smartphones are screwing around with our social skills and attention spans. Gentlemen, how many times have you been on a date and the women you are out with is constantly checking her messages, likes, tweets, whatever?
As adults, and as men, we recognise the pluses and pitfalls of a smartphone world, but a new study done by the University of California Los Angeles says that smartphone use among teens can be a roadblock in a child’s ability to read emotions.
The UCLA psychology department looked at two groups of 11- to 12-year-olds. During the research, one group made significantly more progress than the other. The group deprived of all digital media, even television, performed significantly better at recognizing emotions than those allowed to keep texting and tweeting and talking on Facebook after just five days.
Smartphone use takes away a child’s ability to feel empathy. Good news for warmongers like John McCain and Hillary Clinton, but bad news for pretty much everyone else.
Patricia Greenfield, senior author of the study stated,
“Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education, and not many are looking at the costs. Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues—losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people—is one of the costs.”
How did the study work…
Researchers worked with a total of 105 sixth graders from a Southern California public school, a small but significant study. Half of those students spent five days at a nature and science camp where digital technology was strictly taboo. It seems participants were forced to interact with each other face-to-face instead of screen-to-screen.
All were tested before and after the five days.
All were shown photographs of people and asked to state whether the emotions expressed in the photos were happy, sad, angry or frightened. They were also shown videos and asked to describe what was happening in the simple scenarios.
The test group of campers did much better, paring their average down to 9.41 errors, a significant improvement over their pre-camp average of 14.02. Both the boys and girls who did not attend the nature camp showed little progress.
Results are pretty logical and make sense. Bottom line is this.
“You can’t learn nonverbal emotional cues from a screen in the way you can learn it from face-to-face communication,” stated lead author Yalda Uhls. “If you’re not practicing face-to-face communication, you could be losing important social skills.”
Dr. Karl Benzio, Executive Director of Lighthouse Network told eagNews…
“Being able to read a person’s facial expressions and body language, hear their tone of voice and look them in the eye allows us to gain so much more from the interaction than even talking to them on the phone. The connection the face-to-face contact brings powerfully deepens the relationship as well, which allows further opportunities to practice and hone more complex aspects of relationship skills.”
Besides presenting a roadblock to developing social skills, social media presents other problems. Dr. Benzio lists a few:
- Impatience in relationships because of the instantaneousness of social media.
- Interference with relationship skill acquisition and implementation.
- Having so many casual acquaintances as able to reach out to many people, but then no time to really have deeper relationships.
- Mistaking social media relationships for real ones.
- Using social media to engage in more in depth and complicated relationship activities, like dating, breaking up, managing conflict, apologizing, forgiving, offering a job, explain a misunderstanding, taking ownership of a problem, accountability and disciplining activities to name a few.
- Inability to articulate or explain anything with depth of thought and feeling and requires back and forth connection.
Predictably, the key to ensuring children develop healthy social skills in an uncertain environment of social media are parents.
Go figure. Feminists will not be happy to hear that statement but hey, at least parents are getting some support for the value they add to society.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.