Social media 'may boost social intelligence levels' in teens
Researchers found young people who were active online were better able to make friendships.
Social media use may boost teenager's ability to make friendships in person rather than damage their social skills in the "real world", research suggests, but a lack of social mixing leads to anxiousness in meeting new people.
A report on social intelligence - the ability to 'get on' with people - among adolescents has discovered that an increased use of social media did not correspond to low social skills.
Rather, 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.
But the report also suggested a lack of social integration with people from different backgrounds was damaging teenager's social skills.
According to the study, insufficient social mixing means that 90% of teenagers are nervous about interacting with people who come from backgrounds different from their own.
The research, carried out by King's College London and the National Citizen Service (NCS), explored how we interact with each other based on our understanding of people's emotions in an increasingly diverse, technology-reliant and connected world.
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. However, while important as a means of practising social skills, online interaction is not a substitute for real life interaction. Not only is online interaction associated with more loneliness in later life - as indicated by our research - this form of communication alone is not adequate in preparing young people for the challenges of the workplace.Dr Jennifer Lau
The research also noted that more than two thirds of the adolescent peer groups studied were made up of people from similar backgrounds, and recommended social mixing should play an "integral part" in developing social intelligence among teenagers.
Six in 10 adolescents admitted to sometimes feeling lonely, and the study suggested that failing to develop social intelligence skills when young could lead to increased loneliness and reduced well-being later in life.