Handshakes are often one of the most important and meaningful first impressions. A firm grip, a good squeeze and a confident look in the eye is generally regarded as a good handshake. Unfortunately, in recent times, young people tend to struggle with confident eye contact. While we might say children tend to be shy and awkward in certain situations, one of the biggest factors behind this quirk might be the time they spend in front of screens.
Waning Social Skills
According to research conducted by Dr. Clifford Nass, a creative communication professor at Stanford University, the time young people spend looking at screens is decreasing their ability to read nonverbal communications and other skills needed for effective one-on-one communication. Previous studies have shown that humans learn these skills early in life. One example is the fact that babies interact with their parents by following their gazes and imitating their expressions.
The blame for the steady loss of social skills seems to be pointing at technology. Dr. Ness’ study surveyed 3,461 girls from ages 8 to 12. According to the study, the more time the girls spent on face-to-face communication and away from screens:
- The greater their social achievements.
- The higher their feelings of normality.
- The more sleep they got.
- The fewer “bad influence” friends they had, according to their parents.
The Effects of Poor Technology Usage
While some experts believe young people’s social skills are threatened by technology, others believe the reason may lie in how it’s used. According to studies conducted by Dr. Niobe Way of New York University, girls and boys show sensitivity and understanding about their feelings and those of others.
By adolescence, however, teenagers begin to spend more time online and subsequently keep their feelings to themselves. As kids lose touch with empathy and positive interactions, their social skills begin to wane. This is because boys start to think feelings lose importance and girls focus on superficial things.
Food for Thought
Even though the experts express different opinions on this matter, as a parent, there are plenty of things you can do to help your child develop and fine-tune their social skills. Encourage your children to limit their time spent in front of the television, laptops and phones. Additionally, make more time for face-to-face communication with your child to let them express their feelings and susceptibilities.
If you feel like your child’s social skills can use a little boost, the Rice Psychology Group is here to help. Let our Tampa team evaluate and test your child with customized assessments designed with their needs in mind.