Students’ Social Skills Hindered by Digital Multi-tasking

As young people today are bombarded by a plethora of social media tools and devices, new evidence suggests that their social skills may be hindered by tech.

A study that explores the effect various social media and digital multi-tasking devices has on today’s youth has shown that consistent use of these applications can cause children to develop social problems.

Applications like FaceTime, the Apple video-chat program, and social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace are no replacement for real human interaction, says the study by Stanford University.

The analysis suggests that young people who spend too many of their waking hours constantly switching between YouTube, Facebook, television and text messaging are more likely to develop social problems, writes Mark Milian at CNN.

These conclusions come after a survey of 3,461 American girls aged 8 to 12, and concludes that young girls who spend a disproportionate amount of time using these devices will later struggle to develop normal social tendencies.

Clifford Nass, a Stanford professor of communications who worked on the study, believes that while the study only took evidence from girls, it could also be applied to boys of similar ages.

“Kids have to learn about emotion, and the way they do that, really, is by paying attention to other people. They have to really look them in the eye,” Nass said.

The study highlighted a successful “antidote” to the phenomenon – and that is to simply ensure children spend plenty of time interacting face-to-face with people.

“If you eschew face-to-face communication, you don’t learn critical things that you have to learn,” Nass said.

“You have to learn social skills. You have to learn about emotion.”

The analysis wasn’t able to calculate how many hours children should spend interacting with other people face-to-face, but social skills are typically only learned when children are engaged and making eye contact, Nass said.

Fiddling with an iPod during a conversation or talking to people “face-to-face” via webcams on Skype are not replacements for actual face time.

Nass is a self-described technologist of 25 years, recently worked on a study about how multi-tasking affects adults. Nass found that heavy multitaskers experience cognitive issues like focusing and recalling information from off the tops of their head.

Heavy multi-taskers were actually worse at juggling various activities — a skill crucial to many people’s work lives — than those who spent less time multi-tasking, Nass said.

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