Kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens, and it may be inhibiting their ability to recognize emotions, according to new research out of the University of California, Los Angeles.
The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that sixth-graders who went five days without exposure to technology were significantly better at reading human emotions than kids who had regular access to phones, televisions, and computers.
The UCLA researchers studied two groups of sixth-graders from a Southern California public school. One group was sent to the Pali Institute, an outdoor education camp in Running Springs, Calif., where the kids had no access to electronic devices.
For the other group, it was life as usual. At the beginning and end of the 5-day study period, both groups of kids were shown images of nearly 50 faces and asked to identify the feelings being modeled.
Researchers found that the students who went to camp scored significantly higher when it came to reading facial emotions or other nonverbal cues than the students who continued to have access to their media devices.
"We were pleased to get an effect after five days," says Patricia Greenfield, a senior author of the study and a distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA. "We found that the kids who had been to camp without any screens but with lots of those opportunities and necessities for interacting with other people in person improved significantly more."
If the study were to be expanded, Greenfield says, she’d like to test the students at camp a third time – when they’ve been back at home with smartphones and tablets in their hands for five days.
Kids And Screen Time: What Does The Research Say? : NPR Ed : NPR