Digital Natives: good with tech skills, weak with face to face skills?

Just came across an interesting article in the NY Times ‘Antisocial Networking’ about the debate over the effect of technology/mobiles and social media on the relationships between todays kids.

Although the topic is being widely studied by childhood relationship psychologists, there clearly hasn’t been any long term studies.  It’s an important thing for us to understand as good close relationships during childhood are essential in allowing kids to develop their emotions. I wrote a post last year about the mobile phone being used as a ‘social shield’ to protect kids from kids they don’t want to engage with (eg: they pretend they’re talking to someone when clearly they’re not). The many teens I’ve spoken to talk about their biggest fear is that they’re seen as a social outcast, and that the mobile phone is essential ‘oxygen’ to keep them connected to what’s going on and help them belong to the tribe.

Some interesting points from the post:

-Pew Research Center found that 50% of US teens (12-17yrs) send over 50 texts a day and 33% send over 100 texts a day

54% said they text their friends once a day, but only 33% said they talk to their friends face to face every day

The hypotheses in questions over technology’s impact on kids’ friendships/communication skills:

–          Whether the quality of their interactions are being diminished without the intimacy and emotional give and take of regular, extended face to face time?

–          Is technology making teens less interested in face to face communication with their friends?

–          Todays youth may be missing out on experiences that help them develop empathy, understand emotional nuances and read social cues like facial expressions..after all, they say 80% of communication is non verbal

However on the flip side, many believe that technology is bring kids closer than ever

–          Keeps kids connected to other kids around the clock

–          The impersonal nature of texting and social networking makes it easier for shy kids to connect with others

As marketers who aim to create tribal following around our ideas in culture, we must ensure that when we’re engaging with young people, we’re bringing them together and connecting in both the digital and real world,  as social media is on’y interesting to teens because of what happens when you’re out and about.

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