Digital Media, Reading Emotions & Children
A new study conducted by Patricia Greenfield at UCLA suggests that children’s social skills may be declining as they have less time for face-to-face interaction due to their increased use of digital media.
Greenfield, et al’s study entitled “Five days at outdoor education camp without screens improves preteen skills with nonverbal emotion cues” will be published in this month’s journal edition of Computers in Human Behavior.
The psychologists found that sixth-graders who went five days without even glancing at a smartphone, television or other digital screen did substantially better at reading human emotions than sixth-graders from the same school who continued to spend hours each day looking at their electronic devices. They studied two sets of sixth-graders from a Southern California public school: 51 who lived together for five days at the Pali Institute, a nature and science camp about 70 miles east of Los Angeles, and 54 others from the same school.
At the beginning and end of the study, both groups of students were evaluated for their ability to recognize other people’s emotions in photos and videos. The students were shown 48 pictures of faces that were happy, sad, angry or scared, and asked to identify their feelings.
The children who had been at the camp improved significantly over the five days in their ability to read facial emotions and other nonverbal cues to emotion, compared with the students who continued to use their media devices.
“You can’t learn nonverbal emotional cues from a screen in the way you can learn it from face-to-face communication,” said lead author Yalda Uhls, a senior researcher with the UCLA’s Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles. “If you’re not practicing face-to-face communication, you could be losing important social skills.”
For more information on this study, please view this write up on UCLA newsroom