Social well-being of tween girls negatively affected by use of social media

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 19 2012 8:00 a.m. MDT

Social media use and media multitasking often have a negative effect on the social well-being and communication skills of girls from age 8 through 12.

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Social media use and media multitasking often have a negative effect on the social well-being and communication skills of girls from age 8 through 12, according to a study conducted at Stanford University in March of this year.

More than 3,000 tween girls responded to an online survey sponsored by Discovery Girls magazine during the summer of 2010. Among the major findings from those responses, one of the biggest was the negative socioemotional outcomes from communicating online and media multitasking.

"Face-to-face communication and online communication are not interchangeable," according to the researchers. On the other hand of physical communication, "face-to-face communication was positively associated with feelings of social success (and) was consistently associated with a range of positive socioemotional outcomes."

No matter the type of media — video, video games, music listening, emailing, posting on social media sites, texting/instantly messaging, and talking on the phone and video chatting were all included as media — negative correlations were drawn between media usage and social well-being.

A final result of the survey and study is that "the more time 8- to 12-year-old girls say they spend online, the less happy they are," KJ Dell'Antonia said in an article about parenting for the New York Times. "That is surely not what those girls wanted or expected when they begged for custody of Mom's old laptop."

Dell'Antonia points out the suggestion from the researchers that girls need to experience everything that comes from face-to-face communication, "such as learning to read body language, and subtle facial and verbal cues."

To help those kids who may turn to media more than personal interaction, and for kids in general, Clifford Nass told the Stanford Report, that it is necessary for them to be "actively looking and listening to the people they are with, instead of being buried in front of their smart phones."

Nass, a communications professor, was one of the researchers along with education professor Roy Pea, to head the study.

Seven hours was the approximate time for media use each day, while the approximate time for face-to-face interactions was two hours for participants. They media multitasked with an average of 2.4 media devices.

It was discovered that 31 percent of 8- to 10-year-olds have a cellphone in a Kaiser Family foundation study, reported the Pew Research Internet & American Life Project, which attests to the devices kids and young teens have access to.

Though plenty of negative outcomes from media use by tween girls have become evident through the results of the study, "no more than 10.1 percent of respondents ranked online friends more positively than in-person friends for even one item," the results concluded. "Even heavy media users tended to derive ... positive feelings principally from in-person friends."

Young people who use social media and numerous types of technology to interact with others are still feeling and understanding the importance of friends and interaction of the physical, in-person kind.

However, the researchers still believe the growth of media multitasking should be viewed with concern, due to the "association of media multitasking and problems with cognitive control of attention."

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