Twitter and Snapchat may help teenagers stay in constant contact with friends, but too much time on social media could limit opportunities to develop the kind of in-person skills they’ll need later for dating.
Social media may limit the opportunity to practice in-person conversations that are crucial for adolescents, particularly boys.
“With electronic communications, there are fewer interpersonal cues,” says Jacqueline Nesi, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“You’re not seeing facial expressions or using nonverbal communications. So, the predominant use of social media may limit the opportunity to practice in-person conversations that are crucial for adolescents, particularly boys, to develop important skills.”
For a new study published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence, researchers looked at 487 adolescents at two time periods, one year apart, to determine the proportion of time they spent communicating with romantic partners in person or on the phone, compared to using text messaging and social media sites. Then they assessed their levels of competence in two primary relationship skills: managing conflict and asserting their needs.
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They found that teens who spent more time interacting online were not as skilled in those areas, from knowing how to stop arguments before they turn into a fight or understanding their partner’s point of view to telling partners things they don’t like about the relationship.
Both boys and girls showed the effect, but it was worse for boys, Nesi says.
“Social media allows adolescents to be in touch with their peers 24/7. It’s a great vehicle to allow adolescents to feel like they’re connected to those who are most important to them in ways that people who grew up before the social media age can’t imagine,” says coauthor Mitch Prinstein, professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of clinical psychology.
“But in the area of handling some of the tricky parts of relationships, it looks like the more adolescents are using these electronic forms of communication, the worse they’re doing over time in some of these traditional skills.”
Source: UNC at Chapel Hill