Spending too much time using digital technologies can negatively impact the psychological, developmental, social and physical health of children, says Virginia Tech expert Shalini Misra.
“Multitasking is a huge risk factor for injury and death, for example texting while driving. But more broadly, because it’s so easy to acquire so much information quickly, kids may not learn to think critically and creatively because of the constant passive consumption of fragments of information and communication,” she said.
Misra’s research finds that high levels of cyber-based information overload, among youth, leads to higher levels of stress, poorer health, and less time spent on contemplative activities compared to youth with low information overload levels.
“Spending too much time interacting online leaves less time for in-person social interactions that improve well-being and mood. In addition, the vicarious exposure to graphic coverage of traumatic events online can cause acute and chronic stress and anxiety among children and youth.” She explains that one of the most insidious effects of these tools are the intellectual and developmental consequences of constant distraction and multi-tasking."
“Too much dependence on digital tools can hinder the development of social and interpersonal skills. Kids are less accustomed to focusing their attention for long periods of time these days and digital tools can reduce their capacity to concentrate on effortful and perhaps less desirable tasks.”
She also says that spending too much time online could reduce children's empathy and sensitivity to others. “Face-to-face communication helps children learn how to interpret facial expressions, non-verbal cues, body language, and learn to have lengthy and coherent conversations, and handle disagreements if they arise.”
Shalini Misra is an assistant professor in the Urban Affairs and Planning program in Virginia Tech's National Capital Region. Her research examines the social, psychological and health implications of the Internet and digital communication technologies. Her recent study, “The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices,” examines the relationship between the presence of mobile device and the quality of real-life in-person social interactions.
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