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Psychologist featured at Capitol Hill science exhibit

Stanford’s Roy Pea presents work on effects of social media on girls’ development.

Each year the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), of which the American Psychological Association is a long-time and active member, hosts an exhibit and reception on Capitol Hill to educate members of Congress and their staffers about research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). For the 18th annual event, held on May 15, 2012, APA brought in distinguished learning scientist Roy Pea, of Stanford University’s School of Education and H-STAR (Human-Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research) Institute.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) discusses research on youth social media with APA presenter Roy PeaWith funding from NSF’s Science of Learning Centers Program, Pea and his colleague Cliff Nass (also at Stanford) recently have been examining social media usage and developmental outcomes in “tween” girls (ages 8-12). This work, which has received substantial national media coverage, was showcased in Pea’s CNSF presentation, “Social Media, Media Multitasking and Youth Social and Emotional Well-being.”

In research involving over 3,400 girls in 50 states, Pea and Nass focus on the consequences for youth of changing media ecology, particularly the increasingly pervasive nature of broadband and networked multiple digital devices and the dramatic growth in social media. They examine the recent transformations in children’s communication patterns, emotional expression, social relationships, and friendship development and maintenance. 

Their findings suggest that the extent of girls’ social media, media multitasking, and video use are all negatively related to measures of social and emotional well-being. These measures include assessments of social success, feelings of normalcy, number of friends parents consider a “bad influence,” and hours of sleep. In contrast, the extent of girls’ face-to-face communications was positively related to these same measures of social and emotional well-being.

At the Capitol Hill reception, Pea talked with members of Congress and staffers about the implications of this research and the value of federal funding supporting work in this area. Reps. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.), Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii), Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), and Lamar Smith (R-Texas) were in attendance.  Earlier in the day, Pea and Heather Kelly of the APA Science Directorate also met personally with Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-Calif.) legislative assistant for education and health to discuss the Senator’s support for developmental research related to technology and media.