Online interaction ‘not a substitute for real life’, expert warns

A lack of social integration with people from different backgrounds is damaging social skills in younger people, research has suggested.

Insufficient social mixing means that 90% of teenagers are nervous about interacting with people who come from a different background from their own, a study found.

The report on “social intelligence” among adolescents also discovered that an increased use of social media did not lead to low social skills in the “real” world.

In fact, it found that teenagers who spent more time online were better able to make friendships in person, suggesting more internet use could actually support the development of social skills.

The research, carried out by King’s College London and the National Citizen Service (NCS), explored social intelligence – how we interact with each other based on our understanding of people’s emotions – in an increasingly diverse, technology-reliant and connected world and why it could become increasingly important for future generations.

Dr Jennifer Lau, researcher from King’s College London, said: “It is surprising to see that online interaction is positively linked to a young person’s social intelligence levels. This could be an indication that young people are using the internet as a platform to build relationships with others and to practice their social skills.

Monitoring Desk