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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Marjorie Beeghly

Abstract

Interactive technologies are widely accepted as important communication tools. This said, they may not function the same way for all age groups. Preteens, for instance, spend a considerable amount of time with media devices, however their interactions involve little social content. Therefore, for preteens, engagement with technology may create a social disconnect. This can happen in at least two ways. 1) Interactive technologies may displace face-to-face interactions with individuated screen time. 2) Interactive technologies may create social distance by making individuals independent of other people and devices. To address the social correlates and the situational consequences of interactive technology use among preteens, the present research utilized survey and experimental design. Results of the survey indicated that preteens who spend more time with interactive technologies have fewer face-to-face interactions with their family members and friends. Experimental findings of this research provided preliminary support for interactive technologies potential to bolster social distance. Specifically, it was found that priming interactive technologies increases children’s preference for solitude, as evidenced by less willingness to engage with another child on a collage task. Analyses also demonstrated that children from individualistic cultures who hold independent self-construal are more susceptible to the social distancing effect of interactive technologies, than children with collectivist background, who have interdependent self-construal. Results of this research help address pediatricians’, developmentalists’, and parents’ concerns regarding social consequences of interactive technology use for children. The significance of findings for social development, family dynamics, education, and research design are discussed in detail.

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