Negative Effects of Technology on Social Skills

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  • 0:02 Technology in the Classroom
  • 0:56 Social Skill Importance
  • 2:37 Social Skills & Technology
  • 3:31 Consequences
  • 4:26 Balancing Technology in Class
  • 5:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

As technology plays an increasing role in our students' lives, we as educators start to wonder what impact it has on their social skills. This lesson answers this question and gives some suggestions on balancing technology usage in the classroom.

Technology in the Classroom

Some of us may remember classrooms without technology -- computers were just on the horizon and if they were present, students shared usage of one or two. Along with the increase in availability of technology in education comes the wide-spread application -- from learning games to taking notes, tablets, laptops, desktop computers, and other devices have become a vital part of our day-to-day teaching.

Have you ever wondered what impact all this technology usage is having on our students and their ability to function socially? You may have noticed students have a hard time putting down the tablet or seem more comfortable communicating with a character in an online game than they are with their classmates. What role does technology play in our students' social development, and how is it impacting these skills?

Social Skill Importance

Before we dive into the relationship between social skills and technology, let's talk a bit about what social skills are and why they matter. Social Skills are the tools we use to interact with others. Most of the time we're not thinking about our social skills too much. Think back to the last time you met up with friends. You probably used a good deal of positive social skills you learned along the way, like making eye contact, smiling and laughing at appropriate times, pausing at the right time during conversations, and answering/asking questions at a relatively even distribution. Did anyone actually 'teach' you these skills? More than likely, you simply picked them up along the way. How did this happen?

In bits and pieces as you interacted with others, you began to notice and adapt to their social cues, which are subtle verbal or nonverbal actions that let you know what would be acceptable or unacceptable. These include things like facial expression, tone of voice, body language, and direct wording. Let's say you're talking to your friend about a new job and you suddenly notice her eyebrows raise and she looks alarmed. Though she isn't telling you outright, you will probably notice these cues and ask her what's up.

Social cues are important for many reasons but mostly because they help us navigate social situations. Your students need to learn and develop these skills in order to interact in a society -- to make and maintain friends, get a job, talk to the bank teller, and so on. How do they develop these skills? You guessed it, they learn them by interacting with others.

Social Skills and Technology

Now that we understand it's important for our students to develop social skills, let's go ahead and take a look at how technology impacts their development. As you probably guessed, spending an extended amount of time in front of a screen prevents children from spending time in front of another person. This limits their practice in social skill development. They aren't getting practice having two-way conversations, for example, or learning how to negotiate differences. Too much technology can impact the development of other important social skills, such as:

  • Leadership skills
  • Empathy
  • Conflict resolution
  • Communication
  • Expression of emotions

When students spend an excessive amount of time interacting with technology instead of peers, they don't get to 'practice' social skills. This can have negative consequences, both in class and out.

Consequences of Too Much Tech

Researchers know that children without strong and established social skills may be at risk. When students don't learn how to navigate their way socially, they feel isolated and alone. Often technology is used as a self-soothing device, helping young people pacify their fears and anxieties instead of learning coping mechanisms. Excessive technological use can also:

  • Lead to depression and anxiety
  • Cause social isolation
  • Result in low academic achievement

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