Friday, April 30, 2010
Real relationships or Facebook “friends?”
by Larry Geller
This has been an occasional subject of conversation around the Disappeared News breakfast table. For example we question, can kids who are surrounded by extended family but sitting in isolation playing video games at a dim sum restaurant, or have their iPod earphones in place as they stare at a far wall, properly learn social interaction as we have always known it? Why do their families permit it?
Last week, the Pew Research Center found that half of American teenagers — defined in the study as ages 12 through 17 — send 50 or more text messages a day and that one third send more than 100 a day. Two thirds of the texters surveyed by the center’s Internet and American Life Project said they were more likely to use their cellphones to text friends than to call them. Fifty-four percent said they text their friends once a day, but only 33 percent said they talk to their friends face-to-face on a daily basis. The findings came just a few months after the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that Americans between the ages of 8 and 18 spend on average 7 1/2 hours a day using some sort of electronic device, from smart phones to MP3 players to computers — a number that startled many adults, even those who keep their BlackBerrys within arm’s reach during most waking hours. [New York Times, Antisocial Networking?, 5/2/2010]
Researchers may come up with some answers.
The question on researchers’ minds is whether all that texting, instant messaging and online social networking allows children to become more connected and supportive of their friends — or whether the quality of their interactions is being diminished without the intimacy and emotional give and take of regular, extended face-to-face time.
But the question is important, people who study relationships believe, because close childhood friendships help kids build trust in people outside their families and consequently help lay the groundwork for healthy adult relationships. “These good, close relationships — we can’t allow them to wilt away. They are essential to allowing kids to develop poise and allowing kids to play with their emotions, express emotions, all the functions of support that go with adult relationships,” Professor Parker said.
On the other hand, we adults have sometimes not done so well with our relationships. Maybe the kids are on to something.
Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.