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Stanford Study Links Electronic Media Usage With Girls’ Social, Emotional Development

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12-year-old girls use a computer. (Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images)

RebeccaCorral20100909_KCBS_0583r Rebecca Corral
Like most journalists in Northern California, Rebecca Corral has been...
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PALO ALTO (KCBS) – A study by two Stanford professors has found that the amount of time young girls spend using electronic media, such as texting and Facebook, could play a distinct role in how they develop both socially and emotionally.

Stanford education professor Roy Pea and communications professor Clifford Nass surveyed nearly 3,500 girls ages 8 to 12 about how much time they spend texting, chatting online, watching television, listening to music and communicating through Facebook and then asked about the girl’s social and emotional lives.

KCBS’ Rebecca Corral Reports:

“When you look at the amount of video, online communications and media multitasking that they do, it correlated negatively with their social success, their feelings of normalcy and also their sleep,” said Pea.

He does point out that while they did find a correlation between media habits and diminished social and emotional skills, they’re not claiming they’ve proved a cause and effect. But some things are easy to figure out.

“All of us have experienced what happens when you’re having an engaged conversation with a friend or a colleague and they get messaged or called and they end the communication with you,” said Pea. “It kind of sends a signal right?”

That signal being that you’re not as important as the person texting or calling. And if that happens too much, people may start to back away from the friendship.

Pea said face-to-face communications are also lacking.

“If you’re expressing an idea, a suggestion or having a debate with someone, being able to read their face is very important for gauging what you’re going to do next,” he said. “To get to some mutual understanding or to at least understand your differences. Of course, most of those cues are absent in the media we’re describing.”

Dr. Pea said that the bottom line is that parents have to quantify how much time their kids are spending engaged with their electronic devices. One thing that can help a child’s social and emotional development improve is having more face-to-face conversations with friends and family.

The research was published in the journal Developmental Psychology.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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