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
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