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The Social Costs of Screen Saturation

The advent of high-definition screens and immersive virtual worlds has brought with it an insidious side effect: the erosion of social skills and the ability to forge healthy social connections. Excessive television viewing and video gaming can act as a vacuum, sucking individuals into a solitary vortex of digital interaction that often comes at the expense of real-world relationships.


A study by researchers at UCLA found that preteens who spent five days at an outdoor camp without access to screens were significantly better at reading human emotions than those who continued their normal screen-heavy routine. This suggests that screen time can impair the ability to read facial expressions, a fundamental skill for social interaction.


Excessive screen time can also contribute to a sedentary lifestyle, which is associated with poor physical and mental health outcomes. A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that too much screen time can lead to sleep problems, reduced attention spans, and increased anxiety and depression—all of which can hinder the development of social skills.


Here are five pieces of advice for those looking to improve their social skills and build healthier social connections:


1. Set Limits: Establish designated screen-free times each day to ensure regular breaks from digital devices.


2. Engage in Face-to-Face Interaction: Prioritize activities that require in-person socialization, such as joining a club or sports team.


3. Cultivate Non-Screen Hobbies: Explore interests that don't involve screens, like reading, cooking, or playing a musical instrument.


4. Practice Mindfulness: Develop mindfulness techniques to be more present during social interactions, improving your ability to connect with others.


5. Foster Real-World Friendships: Make a conscious effort to invest time and energy into nurturing face-to-face relationships.


In the digital age, balancing screen time with genuine human connection is paramount. By adopting healthier screen habits, individuals can reclaim their social prowess and strengthen the bonds that make us profoundly human.



- "Five Days at Outdoor Education Camp Without Screens Improves Preteen Skills with Nonverbal Emotion Cues" by Yalda T. Uhls, Minas Michikyan, Jordan Morris, Debra Garcia, Gary W. Small, Eleni Zgourou, and Patricia M. Greenfield, Computers in Human Behavior, 2014.

- “Children, Adolescents, and the Media” by Victor C. Strasburger, on behalf of the Council on Communications and Media, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2013.

Photo of Leidy Anderson

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