5 days without gadgets improves social skills

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

social media
Social media on your gadgets just isn’t the same as real socializing.

In this day and age, there are more laptops, smartphones, and tablets than we really know what to do with. There are so many, in fact, that parents are worried this obsession with electronics will steal a child’s ability to communicate! According to a new study, however, their social skills can be saved if they abstain from all digital screens for at least five days.

Researchers tested a child’s understanding of nonverbal cues, meaning their ability to distinguish an emotional state through means other than language (like facial expressions and eye contact). One of the scientists first got the idea for their experiment after they went to a kid’s party and noticed the majority of the youths had their eyes glued to some sort of digital gadget. Did they even know how to communicate with people in person anymore? In order to find out, the researchers asked almost 50 children to take a series of tests.

The kids in the study had just arrived to a campsite in Big Bear, California when the researchers enrolled them in the examination. In the first round of tests, the youngsters examined 48 photographed faces and guessed the emotional states of the subject. In the second test, the children had to watch videos without volume and give their best guess as to what the actors were feeling. After the kids spent five electronic-free days at the campsite, they had to take the two tests again.

Based on the results, the children were significantly more likely to identify the emotional states of both the individuals in the pictures and the actors in the silent video excerpts! “Honestly, we were pretty surprised that just five days would have that effect,” confessed Yalda Uhls, the lead researcher of the study. “But we think this is good news because if indeed lack of face-to-face time is changing people’s ability to understand emotion, our results suggest you can disconnect for five days and get better.”

Though it didn’t really take that long for the kids to gain their nonverbal skills back, it’s important to take into account that this new generation spends about seven hours per day with their eyes glued onto a screen! Do you think you can last five days without a gadget?

Featured image courtesy of John O’Nolan on Flickr.