5 days at an outdoor education camp without TV, computers or phones improved non verbal emotion cues recognition in preteens

Teenagers, ages 12–17, report using phones to text message in their daily lives more than any other form of communication, including face-to-face socializing.

The extensive time that children and teenagers engage with media and communicate using screens may be taking time away from face-to-face communication and some in-person activities.

A field experiment examined whether increasing opportunities for face-to-face interaction while eliminating the use of screen-based media and communication tools improved nonverbal emotion–cue recognition in preteens.

Fifty-one preteens spent five days at an overnight nature camp where television, computers and mobile phones were not allowed; this group was compared with school-based matched controls (n = 54) that retained usual media practices. Both groups took pre- and post-tests that required participants to infer emotional states from photographs of facial expressions and videotaped scenes with verbal cues removed.

Change scores for the two groups were compared using gender, ethnicity, media use, and age as covariates. After five days interacting face-to-face without the use of any screen-based media, preteens’ recognition of nonverbal emotion cues improved significantly more than that of the control group for both facial expressions and videotaped scenes. Implications are that the short-term effects of increased opportunities for social interaction, combined with time away from screen-based media and digital communication tools, improves a preteen’s understanding of nonverbal emotional cues.

When engaging in face-to-face communication, social information is conveyed by vocal and visual cues within the context of the situation. Nonverbal communication, defined as communication without words, includes apparent behaviors such as facial expression, eye contact, and tone of voice, as well as less obvious messages such as posture and spatial distance between two or more people (Knapp & Hall, 2010). The understanding of these kinds of nonverbal social cues is particularly important for social interaction because of the need to modify one’s own behavior in response to the reactions of others (Knapp & Hall, 2010). The capability to effectively process emotional cues is associated with many personal, social and academic outcomes (Knapp & Hall, 2010; McClure & Nowicki, 2001). In addition, children who better understand emotional cues in a social environment may develop superior social skills and form more positive peer relationships (Blakemore, 2003; Bosacki & Astington, 1999).

For more details on the research visit Science Direct


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