New Proof: The Negative Connection Between Preteens’ Screen Time and Their Social Skills

Back in February 2012, I wrote an e-newsletter entitled, “Face Time: Try This at Home” ( to educate parents about the effects of screen time on social skills and, as a result, to encourage parents to make sacred their face to face time with kids. Now researchers at UCLA have shown with a brand-new study the power of this connection.

As reported in last week’s Wall Street Journal, the study involved testing sixth graders’ ability to detect emotions from people’s faces—which is crucial for appropriate social interaction, development of empathy, and a myriad of other skills. Kids were tested twice, on a Monday and a Friday. During that week, one group attended a science education camp that forbade electronic devices, while the other students remained at school.

After only five days without screens, kids at the science camp reduced their errors by nearly twice as much as those who continued to use their devices. (Overall, middle school students reported spending an average of 4.5 hours a day texting, watching TV, and playing videogames.)

The effects of spending five days interacting with people rather than screens dramatically improved kids’ abilities to read emotions. This study clearly supports the enormous benefit of parents not only reducing kids’ screen time, but also replacing these activities with face-to-face interactions with others. The good news is that making relatively small changes seems to go a long way toward improving social skills that are essential for kids’ development.

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