Screen time does not affect social skills of newer generations: Study

Downey and Gibbs focused mostly on the teacher evaluations, because they followed children all the way to fifth grade, although the results from parents were comparable.

Written by June 4, 2020 18:23

New Delhi: More screen time does not impact the social skills of the newer generation, suggests a new study.

Led by the team from Ohio State University, the researchers compared teacher and parent evaluations of children who started kindergarten in 1998 — six years before Facebook launched — with those who began school in 2010 when the first iPad debuted.

Screen time does not affect social skills of newer generations: Study

Results published in the American Journal of Sociology showed both groups of kids were rated similarly on interpersonal skills such as the ability to form and maintain friendships and get along with people who are different.

They were also rated similarly on self-control, such as the ability to regulate their temper. In other words, the kids are still all right, said Douglas Downey, lead author of the study and professor of sociology at The Ohio State University.

“In virtually every comparison we made, either social skills stayed the same or actually went up modestly for the children born later,” Downey said. “There’s very little evidence that screen exposure was problematic for the growth of social skills.”

Screen time does not affect social skills of newer generations: Study

Downey conducted the study with Benjamin Gibbs, associate professor of sociology at Brigham Young University. The idea for the study came several years ago when Downey had an argument at a pizza restaurant with his son, Nick, about whether social skills had declined among the new generation of youth.

For their study, they used data from The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which is run by the National Center for Educational Statistics.

The ECLS follows children from kindergarten to fifth grade. The researchers compared data on the ECLS-K cohort that included children who began kindergarten in 1998 (19,150 students) with the cohort that began kindergarten in 2010 (13,400 students).

Screen time does not affect social skills of newer generations: Study

Children were assessed by teachers six times between the start of kindergarten and the end of fifth grade. They were assessed by parents at the beginning and end of kindergarten and the end of first grade.

Downey and Gibbs focused mostly on the teacher evaluations, because they followed children all the way to fifth grade, although the results from parents were comparable.

Results showed that from the teachers’ perspective, children’s social skills did not decline between the 1998 and 2010 groups. And similar patterns persisted as the children progressed to fifth grade.

In fact, teachers’ evaluations of children’s interpersonal skills and self-control tended to be slightly higher for those in the 2010 cohort than those in the 1998 group, Downey said.

If anything, new generations are learning that having good social relationships means being able to communicate successfully both face-to-face and online, Downey said. (ANI)