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Speaking in Emoticons?

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momlogic's Vivian:

two young girls using computer

Since a study has revealed that Americans between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average of 7½hours a day plugged in to something that blips and beeps, aNew York Timesarticle asks if today's technology is retarding kids' abilities to communicate in 3D.

One expert quoted in the article says that kids today are just developing a different kind of closeness with one another. "In general, the worries over cyberbullying and sexting have overshadowed a look into the really nuanced things about the way technology is affecting the closeness properties of friendship," said Jeffrey G. Parker, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama, who has been studying children's friendships since the 1980s. "We're only beginning to look at those subtle changes."

Another expert says that Facebook can't replace face-to-face interaction. "Even though young digital natives are very good with the tech skills, they are weak with the face-to-face human contact skills," says Gary Small, a neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry at U.C.L.A. and an author of "iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind."

Overall, these experts say it's too early to tell whether all this texting, instant messaging and online social networking helps kids improve their connections with friends or if it reduces the quality of their interactions. However, it's not like a thumbs-up on Facebook or a retweet can replace a one-on-one powwow at a slumber party -- let alone learning vital social skills like trust, empathy and how to read emotional cues.

But another expert -- as well as a number of parents interviewed for the Times piece -- argue the opposite point: that their children have more and better friendships because of the increased connectivity.

Personally, I think balance is imperative here. Unless I have a professional need (or it's my only way to reach someone), I put the kibosh on social networking on nights and weekends, and am happy to report that my life feels way more relaxed as a result. But what do I know? I'm just a grownup -- and my kids aren't old enough to tweet the day away as of yet.

Do you think your kids have better friendships because of all this connectivity? Or are their friendships less personal?

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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
Christy May 3, 2010, 4:59 PM

I live my life trying to find a healthy balance. Social networking is a great thing in moderation. Most things are that way.

We as parents have to draw a line and make our children walk it. Do these parents not limit their kids computer time? 71/2 hours? A little much wouldn’t you say?

I think they can have the best of both worlds. As long as they have a healthy face to face social life, why worry? Keep kids involved in activities outside the home and this would not be an issue.

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