Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Media use, face-to-face communication, media multitasking, and social well-being among 8- to 12-year-old girls.

By Pea, Roy;Nass, Clifford;Meheula, Lyn;Rance, Marcus;Kumar, Aman;Bamford, Holden;Nass, Matthew;Simha, Aneesh;Stillerman, Benjamin;Yang, Steven;Zhou, Michael
Developmental Psychology, Jan 23 , 2012, No Pagination Specified.
An online survey of 3,461 North American girls ages 8–12 conducted in the summer of 2010 through Discovery Girls magazine examined the relationships between social well-being and young girls’ media use—including video, video games, music listening, reading/homework, e-mailing/posting on social media sites, texting/instant messaging, and talking on phones/video chatting—and face-to-face communication. This study introduced both a more granular measure of media multitasking and a new comparative measure of media use versus time spent in face-to-face communication. Regression analyses indicated that negative social well-being was positively associated with levels of uses of media that are centrally about interpersonal interaction (e.g., phone, online communication) as well as uses of media that are not (e.g., video, music, and reading). Video use was particularly strongly associated with negative social well-being indicators. Media multitasking was also associated with negative social indicators. Conversely, face-to-face communication was strongly associated with positive social well-being. Cell phone ownership and having a television or computer in one’s room had little direct association with children’s socioemotional well-being. We hypothesize possible causes for these relationships, call for research designs to address causality, and outline possible implications of such findings for the social well-being of younger adolescents. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

Does Technology Affect Happiness?

As young people spend more time on computers, smartphones and other devices, researchers are asking how all that screen time and multitasking affects children’s and teenagers’ ability to focus and learn — even drive cars.

A study from Stanford University, published Wednesday, wrestles with a new question: How is technology affecting their happiness and emotional development?

Lucy Gray with her daughter, Julia.Michelle Litvin for The New York TimesLucy Gray with her daughter, Julia.

The answer, in the peer-reviewed study of the online habits of girls ages 8 to 12, is that those who say they spend considerable amounts of time using multimedia describe themselves in ways that suggest they are less happy and less socially comfortable than peers who say they spend less time on screens.

The research raises as many questions as it seeks to answer, as the scientists readily acknowledge. That is because the research was based on an online survey taken by more than 3,400 girls, a sample that may well not be representative of the larger population and, because the responses are self-reported, are not subject to follow-up or verification by the researchers.

Among the crucial questions that the researchers were not able to answer is whether the heavy use of media was the cause for the relative unhappiness or whether girls who are less happy to begin with are drawn to heavy use of media, in effect retreating to a virtual world.

But the researchers hypothesize that heavy use of media is a contributing factor to the social challenges of girls.

The reason, say the researchers, is that on a basic, even primitive level, girls need to experience the full pantheon of communication that comes from face-to-face contact, such as learning to read body language, and subtle facial and verbal cues.

“Humans are built to notice these cues — the quavering in your voice, perspiration, body posture, raise of an eyebrow, a faint smile or frown,” said Clifford Nass, a Stanford professor of communication who led the study. Social media, he added, leaves the conversation two-dimensional. “If I’m not with you face to face, I don’t get these things. Or, if I’m face to face with you and I’m also texting, I’m not going to notice them.”

The peer-reviewed study appeared Wednesday in Developmental Psychology, a journal published by the American Psychological Association, as part of a series of articles on interactive technology and human development. There is no analogous study about how screen time affects boys.

The fact that the study was based on an online survey gave pause to some academics. While they said the paper raised good questions, they also expressed concern about giving it too much weight, given that the researchers were not able to follow up with the survey subjects to get important context, including their family circumstances, income or ethnicity.

Moreover, the limitations of the online survey did not even allow the researchers to verify the ages of the girls.

Lyn Mikel Brown, an education professor at Colby College who studies girls’ behavior, cautioned against reading too much into the research because so little is known about the survey subjects.

It may well be, she said, that girls who seek out online relationships are girls who otherwise might not feel social at all.

“Finding like-minded people online and issues they can relate to and work on with others can be incredibly important,” she said.

But she also said the research should provoke further study about the connection between time spent online and social development, and should provoke conversations in families.

“The clear message is also how important it is for parents to create opportunities for girls to unplug, to live a balanced life, and increase quality face-to-face time with the people important to them,” Ms. Mikel Brown said.

Patricia Greenfield, a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, who edited the article, said that that even though the authors did not find that Internet use causes unhappiness among girls, the correlation that the authors did find was very significant.

The research was based on an online survey of about 80 questions answered by 3,461 girls whom the scientists found by advertising in Discovery Girls magazine. The researchers found that the average amount of media use by the girls surveyed was 6.9 hours per day, a figure that included reading as well as screen time. The average amount of time spent in face-to-face social settings was 2.1 hours, a figure that did not include classroom time.

Some parents of girls who are heavy Internet users said the research addressed questions that they had been concerned about.

Lucy Gray, 45, who lives in Chicago and helps schools integrate technology, said her daughter, Julia, 13, has for several years been a heavy consumer of media — she watches movies on her laptop, has an iPad, iPhone and a Nintendo DS portable game machine. Ms. Gray said that Julia can have trouble picking up on subtle social cues in face-to-face interactions, but she is not ready to blame her daughter’s heavy use of technology.

In fact, she said, she thinks that, on the whole, the technology has helped her daughter navigate the world socially.

“She’d be missing out on an opportunity if she wasn’t connected.” Ms. Gray said.

At the same time, Ms. Gray said, she worries that her daughter, who is using Facebook more, is playing out her social life online sometimes without the benefits of the full emotional range that comes from face-to-face interaction.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Ms. Gray said of the social implications of social media.

Lena Garzarelli, 13, an eighth grader in Asheville, N.C., who spends as much as two hours each day on Facebook, video chatting with friends and using other multimedia, said that the technology, on the whole, has helped enrich her social life. But she said that she felt it could be a poor substitute for face-to-face interaction.

She has had instances, she said, of serious miscommunication because her real meaning was lost in text-based communications.

When people converse online, she said, they “may not understand how I feel because they can’t see the emotion in my face and can’t hear my voice.”



Study shows that kids, unlike adults, think technology is fundamentally human

Growing up with the Internet gives today’s children a very unique view on the way the world works — one that is vastly different from that of older generations.

These kids, the ‘digital natives,” are raised with modern technology deeply embedded into their lives, and form a natural understanding of its benefits. This deeply rooted acceptance gives kids a unique perspective on how technology can be further used to make our lives easier, and helps researchers predict future needs for innovation.

What can we learn from the digital natives?

We asked this question back in September, and it’s one that research firm Latitude sought to answer with its KIDS – Kids Innovation Discovery Series initiative. Now, Latitude is back to find out how technology, specifically robotics, can be used to inspire new opportunities for learning and creativity.



Latitude’s Robots @ School study, which was conducted this month, asked kids across the world to illustrate and write a story that answers this question: “What would happen if robots were a part of your everyday life — at school and beyond?”

The results provide a compelling look on how youngsters feel about modern technology, and most importantly, reveals that tech has a huge potential for blurring the lines between learning and play. Steve Mushkin, founder and president of Latitude explains:

Education and learning are moving, at least in many children’s eyes, beyond acts of knowledge transmission toward acts of exploration and creation.”

With children so easy to embrace robotics, it’s clear that there’s a ton of potential for integrating intelligent technologies into learning environments. Besides, the idea of “exploring and creating” sounds a heck of a lot better than answering true/false questions out of a booklet. Clearly there are tons of new and interesting ways to learn, and technology is, in many ways, responsible for this.

Taking a deeper look at the stories the children created, the survey found that unlike many adults who see technology as separate from humanness, it seems that “kids tend to think of technology as fundamentally human: as a social companion that can entertain, motivate, and empower them in various contexts.”

While this dreamy perspective is partially the result of childhood imagination (something kids from any generation can have), it is clear that kids are eagerly anticipating new ways that tech can enhance their lives.

Sure, it’s easy to dismiss how children look forward to the future and dream without inhibitions, but that’s exactly what some of the greatest innovators of our time have done. Children don’t just react, they imagine, and that’s why this study can’t be overlooked.

Check out the full study, including the kids stories and illustrations here. You’ll also want to check out the infographic below, which is based on the results.


Tech-savvy kids still prefer personal communication by Jeremy Dickson

The new 2012 ChildWise Monitor survey takes a look at how children ages five to 16 years in the UK use technology and finds that despite unprecedented access to virtual worlds, children still prefer to communicate face to face.

It is the top communication channel for children talking about something serious (53%), for having a private conversation (43%, compared with 13% for phone and 11% for text), and for talking about last night’s TV (33%, compared with 21% for social networking sites, 16% for texting).

However, mobile phones are still increasingly important in the lives of this age group especially kids ages 11 and up.

Six out of 10 children ages seven to 16 have a mobile phone that can access the internet (61%), increasing to three in four among 11- to 16-year-olds (77%).

The survey’s results also support the popularity of eReaders especially among younger children and boys. Almost one in 10 five- to 16-year-olds now have an eReader (9%), highest among younger boys (14% of boys aged 5-10 years).

Reading every day is still a hard sell for children as only a minority of children read for pleasure every day (30% read books every day, 15% read magazines), but most read on occasion.

Seventy-eight percent of five- to 16-year-olds read books at all, and more than one in four read books or magazines for an hour a day or more (28%). Two thirds of nine- to 16-year-olds read online (69%) – reviews, stories, news, blogs and books.

For the survey, 2,770 children ages five to 16 years were interviewed via 108 schools across the UK during fall 2011. Full survey results can be found in the annual ChildWise Monitor Report 2011-12.

How many of your Facebook friends are robots? Tim Hwang on Socialbots

How many of your Facebook friends are robots? Maybe more than you think. New research from the University of British Columbia suggests that users of online social networks like Facebook are surprisingly susceptible to infiltration by socialbots — computer programs designed to pass themselves off as human beings.

This week on Spark, we’ll play Nora’s interview with Tim Hwang, a socialbot researcher and the organizer of a socialbot coding competition. They’ll discuss some of the techniques socialbots use to mimic us, and how we can tell the difference between bots and humans. You can hear the full, uncut interview by Nora Young with Tim Hwang on CBC Radio’s Spark, by clicking here.


Ref: CBC Radio’s Spark,


Stefana Broadbent: How the Internet enables intimacy

Facebook Friend Count Linked to Brain Region Size

The number of Facebook friends that people have may be related to the size of brain regions involved in social interaction, research suggests.

In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, scientists looked at brain scans of 125 university students in London who were all active Facebook users and counted the number of friends each had on the social network and in real life.
Some brain regions seem to link to the number of friends we have in both the ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds.Some brain regions seem to link to the number of friends we have in both the ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The researchers found a link between the number of friends on the social networking site and the amount of grey matter in certain brain regions that have previously been implicated in social perception.

“We have found some interesting brain regions that seem to link to the number of friends we have — both ‘real’ and ‘virtual,'” study author Dr. Ryota Kanai of University College London said.

“The exciting question now is whether these structures change over time — this will help us answer the question of whether the internet is changing our brains.”

The investigators cautioned it isn’t possible to tell whether having more Facebook friends makes the regions of the brain larger or whether some people are “hard-wired” to have more friends.

“The relative contributions of ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ therefore remain to be determined,” the study’s authors concluded.

In a series of experiments, the researchers found the volume of grey matter in the amygdala, a region associated with processing memory and emotional responses, was larger in people with a larger network of friends in the real world.

The size of three other regions were also tied with online social networks, but did not appear to be related with real-world networks:

* Right superior temporal sulcus, which plays a role in our ability to perceive a moving object as biological. Structural defects in this region have been identified in some children with autism.
* Left middle temporal gyrus, which has been shown to activate in response to the gaze of others and so is implicated in perception of social cues.
* Right entorhinal cortex, which has been linked to memory and navigation — including navigating through online social networks.

In the study, volunteers were asked questions such as how many people they would invite to a party to estimate the number of their friends in the real world.

“We cannot escape the ubiquity of the internet and its impact on our lives, yet we understand little of its impact on the brain, which we know is plastic and can change over time,” said Dr. John Williams, head of neuroscience and mental health at the Wellcome Trust, one of the funders of the study.

“This new study illustrates how well-designed investigations can help us begin to understand whether or not our brains are evolving as they adapt to the challenges posed by social media.”

The study was also funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the British Academy, the Danish National Research Foundation and the Danish Research Council for Culture and Communication, and the European Union MindBridge project.


Survey Says: 13 Percent of Americans Fake Talking on Mobile Phone to Avoid Others, and More

A new study that says 13 percent of all mobile phone users fake talking or being busy on their phones to avoid having to interact with people around them isn’t such big news. I assumed the number was much higher.

But that’s what the numbers show, anyway. A report published this week by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that 83 percent of American adults own some kind of cell or mobile phone and that more than one in ten fake using it so they don’t have to interact with others.

The survey was nationally representative, and conducted by telephone. And that might be part of the problem with the data, making too low. Stand at bus stops and or corners in most any metropolitan city, however, and one quickly sees that more than 50 percent of the people are fidgeting with a mobile communications device.

Certainly, some are having conversations or listening to music, but I’ve long surmised many are just feigning activity, in order to look busy so they can avoid having to interact with others. The phone fake as more than eight of of 10 adults has become as commonplace in everyday life now as the head fake is employed in basketball.

Other findings in the Pew study were similarly interesting, but not so revealing since now we are quite accustomed to the myriad of ways mobile and smartphones interact with if not dominate our lives.

The findings include:

–The study found that cell or mobile phones are used at least once by 51 percent of all adults to get information they need right away. The study didn’t not specifically say this but other information has revealed that one way mobile device users do this is by cross-checking prices at stores on the Internet on the spot. Reportedly this has been a boon to Amazon’s business, since the online retailer consistently has the lowest prices of all major retailers.

–73 percent of survey respondents say they use their mobile device for more than a phone — the primary uses are text messaging and uploading photographs.

–42 percent of mobile phone users say devices have saved them from boredom. One would only have to take a few trips on the New York subway system to verify this. There, the number is probably closer to 80 percent, if not higher, since riders listen to music and play games and write messages they’ll send when service restores once above ground while riding the trains.

–Forty percent of mobile phone users say they have found themselves in an emergency situation where having the device helped them out.

–29 percent of the Pew study resopndents say they turn off their mobile devices to get a break from using it — presumably this is done when nobody is around that want to avoid interaction with.

–23 percent of mobile phone users say they have experienced frustration because their phone takes too long to download information.

–16 percent said they have had difficulty reading something on their mobile phone because the screen is too small.




Internet users now have more and closer friends than those offline

Internet users now have more and closer friends than those offline
In a new study done by the Pew Research Center, collections of data from thousands of participants showed that people who use social networking services are now not only likely to have larger networks than those who don’t, but also have more close friends.

Young people suffer through short spells without media tech: study

Addicted. Depressed. Irritable. Crazy.

These are just a handful of terms used by hundreds of students around the world when they attempted to spend 24 hours completely disconnected from their cellphones, computers and portable music players.

The study from the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda at the University of Maryland showed many people under 25, regardless of where they call home, can’t bear to unplug for a day if they have become accustomed to such conveniences.

“My dependence on media is absolutely sickening,” said a student from Lebanon taking part in the study, which surveyed 1,000 students in 10 countries. “I was itching, like a crackhead, because I could not use my phone,” said a U.S. respondent.

Project director Susan Moeller said more varied responses were expected, but a similar reaction was noted across the board.

“Perhaps naively, we assumed that we would find substantial differences among the students who took part in this study,” Moeller, a journalism and public policy professor at the University of Maryland, said in a news release. “After all, our partner universities come from very different regions . . . and from countries with great disparities in economic development, culture and political governance — for instance, Uganda, Lebanon and mainland China.

“But it quickly became apparent . . . that all the student responders in this study are digital natives. It was then that we realized that digital natives have no passports: if we had covered up the place name of a student’s comment we would have had no idea of the student’s nationality.”

Most of the participants were not able to reach the 24-hour mark without using their tech devices.

Sergei Golitsinski, a PhD student who worked with the research team, said many students reported the impact of technology on their lives shaped them and some felt lost without their digital ties to society.

“It was striking to us how many students around the world wrote that going without media not only severed their connections to their friends, but challenged their sense of self,” he said. “Who were they, if they weren’t plugged in? Media are not just tools for students to communicate — students reported that how they use media shapes the way others think of them and the way they think about themselves.”