Anti-social kids in a social networking world

In a world that has kids bouncing back and forth between one electronic device to another, our kids — especially our daughters — could be stunting their own social development.

True social skills are rare these days. Blame it on the pervasiveness of electronics, technology and social networking. Because our kids have every possible convenience at their fingertips, learning how to communicate in reality often takes a backseat.

The consummate multitasker

Being a teen has always required a bit of multitasking — there’s homework to complete, friends to call, outfits to select, jobs to work and chores to complete. Today’s teens also have to juggle Skype, tablets, YouTube, smartphones, streaming music, television and a constant flow of electronic information. “The more that kids multitask, the more they lose the ability to focus and concentrate in-depth on one task at a time,” says Sujatha Ramakrishna, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist. “This increases the likelihood that they will develop symptoms of ADHD, which will impair their performance in school and eventually the workplace.”

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Plugged in parenting

Parents today have unique challenges when it comes to contending with technology. Plugged in parenting takes some effort, but we have to address the reality in which our kids are living. This means making an extra effort to ensure appropriate social development. “Real-life social development is an important component of ’emotional intelligence,’ now thought by many psychologists to be an even stronger predictor of future success in life than a child’s I.Q,” says Dr. Ramakrishna. This information can be concerning for many parents who see their kids juggling multiple devices on a regular basis.

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Turn it all off!

A recent study published in Developmental Psychology suggests digital multitasking could very well leave our kids socially inept. The study examined the media habits and social development of almost 3,500 girls between the ages of 8 and 12. The study abstract states, “Regression analyses indicated that negative social well-being was positively associated with levels of uses of media that are centrally about interpersonal interaction (e.g., phone, online communication) as well as uses of media that are not (e.g., video, music and reading).” Essentially, excessive media exposure can seriously impact a child’s social development — and not in a good way.

The good old days

Many parents recall a day when technology existed in a bubble. We decided when to turn it on and when to turn it off. These days, however, the technology stream is constant and prevalent. Fortunately, parents have an opportunity to show their kids how things were done in the “good old days,” — you know, before Facebook. “Children learn by example,” says Dr. Ramakrishna. “If they see Mom and Dad constantly reaching for their smartphones, they come to believe that this is a good way to spend one’s time. If parents themselves put down their gadgets and focus on interacting with others directly, children will follow their lead.”

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