Screen time vs. face time for tweens

A study out of Stanford earlier this year examining tween girls screen habits and their social and emotional lives generated results that the researched described as “upsetting, disturbing, scary.”

Researchers asked girls 8-12 years old about their screen time and electronics usage, including emailing, video chatting, texting, talking on the phone and instant messaging, and how the tweens were multitasking with those activities.

The study found that tweens who multitasked and spent many hours watching videos and using online communication were statistically associated with a series of negative experiences: feeling less social success, not feeling normal, having more friends whom parents perceive as bad influences and sleeping less.

Yup, scares me.

"When we media multitask, we're not really paying attention to the people around us and we get in a habit of not paying attention, and thus when I'm talking with you, I may be hearing the words but I'm missing all the rich, critical, juicy stuff at the heart of emotional and social life,” said researcher Clifford Nass.

The take away: face time matters.  Tweens need to spend time together, in the same room, looking at each other.  Researchers explained that tweens learn to interpret emotions by watching the faces of other people.

It seems like this study came up with info that is true for any age group, and which we probably all knew but it never hurts to remind us:

  • Eye contact is important;
  • Doing one thing at a time leads to greater focus, and that can bring about better understanding;
  • One can read another person better when in the same room looking at him or her than over the phone or email. (Trust me on this one.  My office is virtual, meaning my colleagues are spread across the country and we rely on electronic communication.)

This is a good reminder to me to put down my iPhone, step away from the computer and spend some quality face time with my favorite tween.

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