Technology Not Causing Social Isolation: Pew Study

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Thursday, November 12, 2009

Technology Not Causing Social Isolation: Pew Study

Parents should keep in mind that although the modes of communication have changed since they were teenagers, today's social media platforms (texting, social networking sites, cell phones) are the preferred method teens use to communicate. Pew Internet's new study, though not specifically investigating teens, is a good reminder that technology use in communication isn't creating social isolation. Parents should also consider jumping on the bandwagon, if they've resisted, as it appears that contrary to popular belief, technology actually builds broader social interactions, which means there's opportunity for better communication and connection with their teens.

Contrary to popular belief, technology is not leading to social isolation and Americans who use the Internet and mobile phones have larger and more diverse social networks, according to a new study.

"All the evidence points in one direction," said Keith Hampton, lead author of the report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project released Wednesday. "People's social worlds are enhanced by new communication technologies.

"It is a mistake to believe that Internet use and mobile phones plunge people into a spiral of isolation," said Hampton, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania.
The authors said key findings of the study -- "Social Isolation and New Technology" -- "challenge previous research and commonplace fears about the harmful social impact of new technology."

"There is a tendency by critics to blame technology first when social change occurs," Hampton said.

"This is the first research that actually explores the connection between technology use and social isolation and we find the opposite.

"It turns out that those who use the Internet and mobile phones have notable social advantages," Hampton said. "People use the technology to stay in touch and share information in ways that keep them socially active and connected to their communities."

The study found that six percent of Americans can be described as socially isolated -- lacking anyone to discuss important matters with or who they consider to be "especially significant" in their life.

That figure has hardly changed since 1985, it said.

Source: Google / AFP