JOPLIN, MO.--- More people are using electronic communication than ever before, but some worry the message is getting lost in translation. Experts say using things like Facebook and texting to get a message across could have harmful effects. They say most communication happens non-verbally, meaning a majority of what we say comes through in our body language. With the younger generation using cell phones more and more, experts say they may be losing essential skills.
"Most of the research shows that 90 percent of communication happens non-verbally. So, it's the things that we don't say out loud that communicate the most," said Del Camp, Ozark Center Vice President.
We live in a world where some kids spend more time talking to a screen than the people sitting right next to them.
"My phone is like my everything. It wakes me up in the morning, it has all my assignments, everybody's phone number in there," said Idalis Ford, 11th Grade Student.
"I think it's just a way to keep yourself in touch with everybody else, especially if you're not really doing a whole lot or you're just multitasking," said Kenneth Braun, 12th Grade Student.
Although many have mastered the art of electronic communication, experts say they may not be developing important skills needed to have effective conversations in person. That includes how to express emotions non-verbally.
"If you can't practice those things, because you can see immediately from feedback from the other person how effective that is, if you lose that, well, what does that mean? Those are skills that you typically learn as adolescents, but we have half of adolescents moving through with most of their communication happening in front of a screen," said Camp.
Because that non-verbal communication can't be seen through texting or online messages, psychologists say it's easy to be misunderstood. It could lead to potential problems that could have been avoided otherwise.
"You forget eye contact, you forget how important that is. Again, 90 percent of communication is non-verbal, and so what are you saying without intending to say it," said Camp.
High school student, Idalis Ford, knows firsthand how texting can send the wrong message.
"One time I got in an argument with this girl and I was like hey you need to bring my stuff back. She thought I was saying 'You need to bring my stuff back!' But it wasn't even like that," said Ford.
Ford is not the only one, Kenneth Braun, 18, has gotten in trouble for not responding to text messages quickly enough.
"You could be doing something away from your phone and they'll be asking you 'hey why were you ignoring me?' And I'll be like 'hey sorry, I had to go do something," said Braun.
While it might seem like a good thing to stay connected, experts say the best way to get your point across is face-to-face.
"Regardless of how connected we become with our friends, we will always have to have good communication and good personal communication with those who are closest to us because we touch them everyday. If we don't regularly practice that, then I think we're going to lose the skills that hold families together," said Camp.
This doesn't mean you should completely stop. Psychologists say electronic communication is appropriate in some instances. They say the more difficult the message, the more important it is to communicate in person.
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