Increased social media interaction rather than real life may be negatively affecting adolescent relationships, says new study.
A team of researchers from the University North Carolina at Chapel Hill and NC State University looked at 487 adolescents at two time periods, one year apart, to assess how much time they spent communicating with romantic partners in the more traditional ways of in person or on the phone, or by using the more high-tech ways of text messaging and social media sites.
‘Although social media enables teens to be in touch constantly and feel more connected, adolescents do not seem to fare well in some tricky areas of a relationship.’
The researchers then assessed the teens' levels of competence in two key relationship skills: managing conflict and asserting their needs, finding that those who spent more time interacting online had lower levels of competence in both areas.
Both boys and girls showed a lack of skills in areas such as knowing how to stop arguments before they turned into a fight, understanding their partner's point of view, or communicating to their partners the things they didn't like about the relationship, with the effect particularly strong for boys.
Adolescence is a key time for developing these complex and important interpersonal skills. However technological advances means that "With electronic communications, there are fewer interpersonal cues," explained lead author of the study Jacqueline Nesi.
"You're not seeing facial expressions or using nonverbal communications. So, the predominant use of social media may limit the opportunity to practice in-person conversations that are crucial for adolescents, particularly boys, to develop important skills."