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The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently released a report about teens and mobile phone use. Shortly after, The New York Times ran a story suggesting that this report (among other things) indicates that teens are becoming less social. Hilary Stout writes:
One of the concerns is that, unlike their parents — many of whom recall having intense childhood relationships with a bosom buddy with whom they would spend all their time and tell all their secrets — today’s youths may be missing out on experiences that help them develop empathy, understand emotional nuances and read social cues like facial expressions and body language. With children’s technical obsessions starting at ever-younger ages — even kindergartners will play side by side on laptops during play dates — their brains may eventually be rewired and those skills will fade further, some researchers believe.
Rich Ling, of The Pew Internet and American Life Project, posted a follow-up clarifying some aspects of the report. He points out that the study only surveyed texting outside of school and that the study also shows that “face-to-face interaction is holding relatively steady.” He also observes that texting is happening “in addition to other forms of social interaction” not in place of it. Ling’s interpretation of the data is quite contrary to that of The New York Times:
another interpretation is that teens actually have more access and more informal, casual contact because of texting. This is because texting is woven into the flow of other activities. In essence their friends are always there and always available for a texting “chat.” This interpretation follows from the material on texting in class, texting at night, and in a variety of other situations. Rather than becoming monks sitting in their cells, the material may actually point in the direction of more social interaction, not less.