Antisocial Networking?

An interesting article in the New York Times today on how technology affects kids' friendships.

The question on researchers’ minds is whether all that texting, instant messaging and online social networking allows children to become more connected and supportive of their friends — or whether the quality of their interactions is being diminished without the intimacy and emotional give and take of regular, extended face-to-face time.

It is far too soon to know the answer. Writing in The Future of Children, a journal produced through a collaboration between the Brookings Institution and the Woodrow Wilson Center at Princeton University, Kaveri Subrahmanyam and Patricia M. Greenfield, psychologists at California State University, Los Angeles, and U.C.L.A. respectively, noted: “Initial qualitative evidence is that the ease of electronic communication may be making teens less interested in face-to-face communication with their friends. More research is needed to see how widespread this phenomenon is and what it does to the emotional quality of a relationship.”

But the question is important, people who study relationships believe, because close childhood friendships help kids build trust in people outside their families and consequently help lay the groundwork for healthy adult relationships. “These good, close relationships — we can’t allow them to wilt away. They are essential to allowing kids to develop poise and allowing kids to play with their emotions, express emotions, all the functions of support that go with adult relationships,” Professor Parker said.

“These are things that we talk about all the time,” said Lori Evans, a psychologist at the New York University Child Study Center. “We don’t yet have a huge body of research to confirm what we clinically think is going on.”

What she and many others who work with children see are exchanges that are more superficial and more public than in the past. “When we were younger we would be on the phone for hours at a time with one person,” said Ms. Evans. Today instant messages are often group chats. And, she said, “Facebook is not a conversation.”

Continue Reading in the NYT