Monday, February 6, 2012

Face to Face is Better Than a Screen

This article is almost from the Department of Duh...but not quite. A recent study shows that pre-teen girls have better social and emotional health the more they interact with people face-to-face (as opposed to texting and email) and the less they multi-task.

This makes sense; people learn social cues from being social - reading responses and body language - and it is difficult to do that through a screen; even Skype is imperfect due to delays and fuzzy images (and, as the article points out, the fact that many of us do other things while using Skype, as opposed to directing all of our attention to the screen). The more time spent in front of a screen, the less time we have for personal interaction.

This screen time and multi-tasking is endemic and certainly present at our house. Some evenings will find us with the TV on and all on our own device (laptop, iTouch, etc); a news show called this "alone together," and The Child points it out on occasion. It is not a good feeling when your kid looks around the living room, takes it all in and says with a chuckle, "Alone together again."

In the past couple days my family has spent less time on screens and TV, and I think it coincides with the fact that the weather has been beautiful. Yes, we still have school and work online, and we have been watching a video of an old PBS show called "1900 House" (a family lives as Victorians for three months), but we have alos been walking the dogs, working outside and leafing through catalogs and magazines together.  There have also been lovely, leisurely picnics, and two of us spent non-screen time lounging on a boat over the weekend, returning home happy, relaxed and rested.

Our family dynamic is better when we sit at the table for dinner and ask about each other's day; we are kinder to each other when we are not in front of screens first thing in the morning. The Child would like to forgo all technology for a week and live like the Victorians (problematic in many ways; I have asked that we start with a couple days and do it over the summer), but I don't think one needs to give it all up in order to benefit.  Setting limits on screens and encouraging face-to-face communication strengthens relationships and bonds all people, not just pre-teen girls, and it is a good priority to have.

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