The answer, in the peer-reviewed study of the online habits of girls ages 8 to 12, is that those who say they spend considerable amounts of time using multimedia describe themselves in ways that suggest they are less happy and less socially comfortable than peers who say they spend less time on screens.
The research raises as many questions as it seeks to answer, as the scientists readily acknowledge. That is because the research was based on an online survey taken by more than 3,400 girls, a sample that may well not be representative of the larger population and, because the responses are self-reported, are not subject to follow-up or verification by the researchers.
Among the crucial questions that the researchers were not able to answer is whether the heavy use of media was the cause for the relative unhappiness or whether girls who are less happy to begin with are drawn to heavy use of media, in effect retreating to a virtual world.
But the researchers hypothesize that heavy use of media is a contributing factor to the social challenges of girls.
The reason, say the researchers, is that on a basic, even primitive level, girls need to experience the full pantheon of communication that comes from face-to-face contact, such as learning to read body language, and subtle facial and verbal cues.
Interesting food for thought.