“Does on-screen time really affect the social skills of the children living in this technology era?”

Latest research has destroyed a long-held critical evaluation with its ground breaking results.

A new development in the psychological research field has brought about something for parents or caregivers to cherish. A new study has hinted that children can have standard set of social communication skills while having used smartphones and other mobile devices.

The argument, which does hold the basic sense, states that the more a child time spent on screen, the more likely the child will find lesser time for socialization, consequently lack the normal set of social skills. Parents have shown concern over the behavior of their children when they prefer to use mobile devices in the homes or social functions instead of initiating a conversation with their families or friends.It is worthy to note that there might be some other types of negative effects on children for spending time on mobile screens. However, the parents can breathe a sigh of relief for the suspected negative impact of on-screen time for their children. The latest research by American Journal of Sociology reports that the on-screen time does not have significant effect on set of social skills of children.

The backdrop of this research is quite interesting as the author of this study, a professor of Sociology at Ohio State University Douglas Downy argued about that the terrible effects of on-screen time on the social skills of the children of this generation, with his son. His son inquired about the scientific proof behind his father’s notion, which left the Downy tongue-tied and with an idea to work to find concrete scientific evidence to check the validity of this very assumption.

To assist Downy came his colleague Gibbs, a Sociology professor at Brigham Young University. They utilized the data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) done by National Center for Educational Statistics. They compared the two set of populations: the first population included the 19,000 children who started K.G classes in 1998 while the other which started their K.G classes in 2010.  These populations were meticulously chosen keeping in view certain facts: the year 1998 was 6 years before the start of Facebook and the 2010 was the year the 1st iPad was launched in the market. The ECLS gathered the ratings from parents at three different time- at the beginning and the termination of K.G class and at the end of 1st grade. It also assessed the data of ratings done by teachers at six different times between K.G class and the end of 5th grade.

The results clearly depicted that children were equally equipped with the social abilities in both the sets of populations. The children were assessed on their ability to manage their temperament and their capacity to maintain their friendships. Furthermore, it also evaluated the children’ capability to befriend the ones who were different from them. To the surprise of the researchers, the interpersonal skills and self-control of children were a marginally higher in the group from 2010.

Although, the long-held notion that the new technologies have marred the social capabilities of new generation, does not hold ground anymore, but there was a group of children who were extensively involved in online gaming and social networks, did have a bit lower number of social skills.

The researchers of this study have recommended to study digital social skills in future studies as they have only assessed the face-face social skills. They have stressed upon the need of being able to have command over both the face-face and digital social skills.

Written by Wajeeha Naseer (Clinical Psychologist)
Thoughts: Dr. Sadaqat Ali

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