Study Finds Multitasking by Tween Girls Harming Their Social Development

A new study conducted by Stanford University Psychologists and Discovery Girls magazine has found that girls between the ages of 8 and 12 who multitask on computers, phones and other electronic devices report feeling less socially successful, feeling less normal and have more friends that their parents see as a bad influence. They also tend to get less sleep.

To find out what the impact of all the new technology has been having on young girls, the research team reached out to 3,461 subscribers to Discovery Girls magazine with a comprehensive survey. After reviewing the results one of the research team leads described the results as “disturbing.”

As part of the survey, respondents were asked to answer questions about their use of online applications such as social networking sites, including Twitter and Facebook. They were also asked about their use of cell phones and other technology devices and how they used them, i.e. one at a time versus many. Once they had all the technical questions out the way, the girls were then asked about the quality of their lives, how they viewed themselves and the role they felt technology played in framing their social and sometimes familial existence.

Sadly, after averaging results, the research team found that the girls who multitasked the most, tended to have the most social and emotional problems. Many described feelings of self hatred and an inability to fit in either online or in the real world.

And while it appears there is a clear connection between girls who multitask using various electronic media, it’s not clear if it’s a causal. After all, they point out, it could be that girls with problems are more likely to glam onto technology that can provide the illusion of being more popular or attractive than they really are.

Another important aspect of the study involved asking the girls in the survey how much time they spent interacting with people in real life, and not surprisingly, those that did more of it, rated themselves much more normal and better at fitting in, even those that also reported spending more time multitasking with new technology. This suggests, the authors say, that the negative social impact of multitasking can be overcome by an increase in real world social interaction.

The research team doesn’t offer any real theories as to why girls with poor self images and social skills tend to multitask with technology more than others, but the implication is that such activities create a closed inside-the-head type experience which don’t lend well to developing true social skills.

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