New research suggests that exposure to television and other screens is lowering kids' ability to read human emotion.
A study at UCLA found that children who were deprived of all screens for five days were better at reading emotions than those who continued their normal use of screens. The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, sent 51 sixth graders to an outdoor camp, where they had no access to television, phones, or the internet. The study also included 54 sixth graders, all from the same public school in Southern California, who spent five days using screens as normal.
Before and after the five-day period, both groups were shown photos of people expressing various emotions. After the five days were up, the children who attended the camp were better at identifying the emotions and recognizing expressions than they had been before the camp. Conversely, those who did not attend the camp's skills remained the same.
Yalda T. Uhls, the study's lead author, said the research shows that physical interaction is important for childhood development. "You can't learn non-verbal emotional cues from a screen in the way you can learn it from face-to-face communication," Uhls told Time.