Reading Faces

Serve Hanks - Sending Flowers

Serve Hanks – Sending Flowers

Most of us take for granted our ability to read emotions, such as anger or happiness, on the faces of others. But most adults came of age before computer screens became ubiquitous.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, wondered if all that screen time might be affecting children’s ability to read emotions in others. To find out, they took advantage of a rustic science-education program, 70 miles east of L.A., which doesn’t permit students to use electronic devices.

That let the scientists assess two groups of about 50 sixth-graders, each from the same public school. One group was at the program for five days, while the other hadn’t yet attended. Both groups were tested on Monday and then again on Friday for their ability to detect emotions from people’s faces. In two tests, each given twice, the pupils looked at 48 still photos and 10 videos scrubbed of verbal content.
After five days without electronics, the campers had pulled way ahead in reading faces. The camp group reduced its errors on the still-photo test by nearly twice as much as did the control group. On the video test, the campers improved by nearly 20% while the non-campers showed no change.
Overall, the children owned up to spending an average of 4.5 hours a day texting, watching TV and playing videogames. And the mix of screen time—TV versus phones, for instance—made no difference to the results. Nor did gender.
The findings suggest that children need more face time—and less screen time—to sharpen their social skills. But based on the results after just five screen-free days, improvement appears to be rapid.

Five days at outdoor education camp without screens improves preteen skills with nonverbal emotion cues

Screen Time – Turn off your Video!


When I was growing up TV was relatively new. Initially a large black and white tube TV. In 1965 our family bought an RCA color TV. It was great to watch the Disney World of Color and Bonanza. In retrospect I thought we watched a lot of television but with sports and school work we spent little screen time.

I am concerned about the time that our children spend in front of video screens with passive or limited interactive response. The games on video displays such as the new ipads or internet games may represent a mixed blessing. We need to be aware how TV effects our kids. It may contribute to ADD, anxiety, anger or even violence. We have a new generation of children who are now interfacing with video games at younger than 12 months of age. It can be fun to see the interaction but little is known about the impact that the video exposure has on the development of these kids. We want to foster the magic years. Most would agree that there should be little TV or DVD exposure under TWO years of age.

The most important interface during the first 2 years is the parents reading to their children. However an increasing number of parents are facebooking, texting and other wise socializing in lieu of interacting with their child.

It is increasingly important for our present generation of parents to understand how our child develops and matures. With that understanding they can facilitate that development.