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Can too much social media make us anti-social?

The cost of convenience could be healthy relationships.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine.  They’re all ways we connect online.

But how does using social media in the virtual world impact our social interaction in the real world?

"When we talk or when we interact, more than 90% of our interaction is non-verbal, meaning our body language, our facial expression, our tone of voice," says Dr. Geetika Dembla, a psychiatrist at University Health in Shreveport.

She says all those subtleties which add meaning, don’t exist online.

"I think it's a skill that this coming generation may not acquire, if they spend a majority of their time interacting in a medium and not real face to face," adds Dr. Dembla.

“Kids now will text instead of talk and they can be sitting right beside each other," says Tanya Head, who is mom to a teenager.

Tanya carefully monitors social media with her daughter Lauren, who agrees some of her peers are much more outgoing online than in person.

"I've noticed with a lot of my friends, they'll look down or stay quiet and that's because they don't know what to say,” describes Lauren.

“They may have hundreds of friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter or whatever. But how many real relationships do they have?  So they're living in this make-believe world," Dr. Dembla explains.

She recommends guiding children while they’re young to ensure they’ll have healthy relationships as they grow.  That includes teaching them how to balance screen time with other activities so they can talk with real time friends, having real time interactions.

Dr. Dembla stresses the importance of parental interaction to practice communication and parental supervision online to practice safety.

Before signing up, downloading or even texting, Tanya lays out three rules for Lauren: get permission; give up passwords; and only connect with people you know.

"We have a rule that if you do not know them, you do not friend them,” Tanya explains. “So she tries to make sure she's either going to church with them, going to school with them or family."

With the prevalence of online bullying, Lauren set up a few socially-savvy, social media guidelines of her own.

"Check to make sure ‘will this hurt or come back to haunt you?’ or will it hurt someone else,” Lauren asks.  “And would it hurt you if you read that and it was about you?"

 

 

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