Young Girls Can Multimedia Multitask, but at What Cost?

Half a dozen years ago, less than one-fifth of 12-year-old girls had a cell phone or iPod. Now, according to recent statistics, more than half of our young women own one if not both of these devices. Our culture has taken a dramatic technological shift over the past decade. And although there has been much research dedicated to examining the effects of multimedia on college students and adults, little attention has been given to the effects this has on the social skills and academic functioning of our young girls. Roy Pea of the School of Education at Stanford University wanted to find out exactly how use of media outlets in general, and multitasking between such outlets in particular, affected the social well-being of young girls. He was particularly interested in determining if relationships forged online or over texting and video chatting were stronger and more intimate than those developed through in-person communication. Pea also looked at rejection coping, positive and negative affect and hours spent using media in relation to total sleeping hours per day.

In line with the focus of his study, Pea chose to conduct on online survey of young American girls ranging in age from 8 to 12 years. Using data collected from over 3,400 girls, Pea assessed levels of video usage, video gaming, video chatting, texting, messaging, emailing, social networking, music listening, and time spent engaged in homework and reading. He also considered sleeping hours and impact of in-person communication. The findings revealed that use of media, including multitasking and online chatting and video, were directly related to poor social development and emotional well-being. Not surprisingly, Pea also noticed that nearly all of the in-person encounters resulted in an increase in positive emotional well-being and social functioning. Previous studies had suggested that in-person communication and online communication resulted in similar types of emotional outcomes. Pea stresses that the results of his study provide evidence that this is not the case, at least for the girls he surveyed. He believes the findings of his study shed a bright and necessary light on the dynamic shift our culture is undergoing and its impact on our youth. “We emphasize in closing that our society is experiencing an unprecedented shift in media ecology.” Pea added, “The choices that our children are making—when and how they engage with these media and in what situations—are shaping their social relationships, social well-being, and time availabilities for school-related study and other activities.”

Pea, R., Nass, C., Meheula, L., Rance, M., Kumar, A., Bamford, H., Nass, M., Simha, A., Stillerman, B., Yang, S., Zhou, M. (2012, January 23). Media Use, Face-to-Face Communication, Media Multitasking, and Social Well-Being Among 8- to 12-Year-Old Girls. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027030

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.

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  • Celeste


    January 27th, 2012 at 5:22 AM

    But my question becomes how do they avoid any of this? They have friends from a very early age talking on cel phones, asking for facebook pages etc. If the parents deny their girls this same kind of access to media then they are setting them up to be teased by their friends and I don’t think that there are any of us that want this for our children. I don’t necessarily think that it is a bad thing to allow them some age appropriate access to all of this- you just have to be willing to set some limits with how much usage they are allowed. And that is the trick that gets so many parents and kids into trouble. They are allowed unlimited use, and that is when you seriously have to start looking at what cost to the children.

  • jack


    January 27th, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    We as parents have to step up and take some initiative here. Do we really want all this texting and junk going on just so they won’t be teased? Wouldn’t the better solution be to teach them how to defend themselves when someone makes fun of them?

  • Cooper


    January 28th, 2012 at 5:36 AM

    Kind of difficult to know where to draw that line, but I guess it all boils down to knowing your child and how much of this they can handle before it atarts to interfere with other factes of their lives. If they are on the phone or online a little bit eah day then I really don’t see that as a problem. Hopefully that means they are cultivating some skills that will be useful to them in the future. But I think we all know if they can’t get anything else done because of too much time engaging in these other activities then that is when we know it is probably time to pull the plug on the devices for a while.

  • Simone F

    Simone F

    January 29th, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    I have not allowed my 11 year old to have a phone or facebook yet, but don’t think that she does not catch some flack for my decisions. But those are my rules and she has to live by them. I know her and I know that if she had those added distractions then she would never be as successful in school as I know that she has the ability to be. So, we opt out of all of that for her for now. I am getting the pressure to let her do these things but I am not ready for that yet and I am sure that even though she thinks that she is she is not ready yet.

  • d.M


    January 29th, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    I can see the benefits of meeting someone in person rather than online when there is a task to be done or a meeting to be had.But saying that it is true all the time could not be true.I can say hello to 20-25 people a day on a social networking site.Now imagine if I would do that in the real world.the effort needed for an in-person meet itself would bog me down!

  • jerry bobbins

    jerry bobbins

    October 11th, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    too much time on fb is a time killer. imagine doin all kinds of other multimedia at the same time

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