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Why technology not hurting social skills of kids these days

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New York, April 13 (IANS) Parents, kindly take note. Despite the time spent with smartphones and social media, young people today are just as socially skilled as those from the previous generation, say researchers.

For the findings, published in the journal American Journal of Sociology, 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.

Results 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.

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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. In virtually every comparison we made, either social skills stayed the same or actually went up modestly for the children born later,” said study lead researcher said Douglas Downey from the Ohio State University in the US.

For the study, the research team 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.

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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).

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.

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

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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.

Even children within the two groups who had the heaviest exposure to screens showed similar development in social skills compared to those with little screen exposure, results showed.

There was one exception: Social skills were slightly lower for children who accessed online gaming and social networking sites many times a day.

“But even that was a pretty small effect. Overall, we found very little evidence that the time spent on screens was hurting social skills for most children,” Downey said.

–IANS

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