A recent study has confirmed again what every mom already knows: technology use reduces our child’s ability to read non verbal social cues and emotional information from others. Even though you are looking at your digital screen as you read this, you can see that the photo on the left is much more descriptive than the emoticon on the right. But if you were actually in the room with this child many more of your senses would be activated as you would also hear the contagious belly laugh, watch the bouncing body movement and get the message loud and clear that this was a happy kid. You would feel it with your emotions and it would make you smile. The image on the right is more shallow and does not give the same cues. Very important emotional information is missing when we text, rather than when we talk face to face.
According to a new UCLA study, people need more face to face interaction away from screens. Digital media overuse/imbalance is causing a decline in our children’s ability to fully communicate and socially understand others’ emotions. They took all screens away from 50 sixth graders for just 5 days and found that the child’s ability to read facial emotions and other emotional cues improved significantly.
Patricia Greenfield, the author of the study says there are costs associated with screen time: “Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues — losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people — is one of the costs. The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills.”
It is impossible to earn non verbal emotional cues from a screen. Children must practice how to do this and the only way to practice is through real face to face time with others. It is part of learning to speak, communicate and understand language which, of course, is a critical milestone for future relationship success. One of our most important mom jobs is to teach our children how to communicate well. By putting our own devices down and talking with them face to face, our children will begin to learn more about the complexities of human emotion. As they grow, this exercise needs to continue with real people.
What is so important about the ability to read emotional cues? Social cues help clarify another person’s intention, guide the conversation and allow for deeper connections. Emotional cues reduce confusion about what is being said. Cues include: facial expressions, vocal tone, body language, gestures and posture and proximity. Misunderstanding social cues can prevent your child from making and keeping friends. Reading emotions is necessary for feeling what others are feeling and for experiencing the depth of a relationship. Humans thrive on connection with others and if those connections are being threatened at an early age through digital overuse, it is time for us to make some changes. Trust your instincts. If your gut is telling you that all that texting and screen time is shallow and not helping your child with communication skills, you are right! There is no short cut to this skill, your child needs device free time with others!
You can read more here:
actual study pdf here under Health Issues Related to Technology Overuse.