Our society may be in a for a rude awakening about social interactions.  The problem will be that our younger generation may not be able to detect the problem.  Recent research has found that children’s social skills may be declining with the use of digital technology.

“Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education, and not many are looking at the costs,” said Patricia Greenfield, a distinguished professor of psychology in the UCLA College and senior author of the study. “Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues — losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people — is one of the costs. The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills.”

The study found that children that were exposed to digital media — cell phones, tablets, computers, etc.- were less able to detect emotions in others than children that were removed from the same technologies for a few days.  According to the study, students who were not exposed to the digital media did approximately 40% better than their digital counterparts.

“You can’t learn nonverbal emotional cues from a screen in the way you can learn it from face-to-face communication,” said lead author Yalda Uhls, a senior researcher with the UCLA’s Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles. “If you’re not practicing face-to-face communication, you could be losing important social skills.”

The implications of such digital unawareness are already evident in mediations. More and more people have difficulty understanding the subtle clues given by people in conflict.  You can see it in depositions where people don’t look up to see the answer to their question.  As lawyers, we are involved in conflict, but unfortunately, we are not practicing the art of understanding the conflict.  We need to be able to understand those subtle cues if we wish to become better negotiators. University of California – Los Angeles. “In our digital world, are young people losing the ability to read emotions?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140822094240.htm>.