The playground can be a dangerous place, and there’s a reason for that according to a recent study.
Clark McKown of the Rush Neurobehavioral Center in Chicago has discovered why certain kids may become less social and therefore targets of bullying while growing up. He found that very specific factors during social interaction, including the inability to pick up on nonverbal social cues, can lead to rejection, which could explain why some kids become “nerds.”
According to a LiveScience report, McKown ran two studies that involved 284 children, ages 4 to 16. These youths were tasked to judge the emotions, tones of voice, and body postures of actors in movie clips and photos. These judgments were then compared to accounts of the kids’ social behavior. Kids with social problems in their real lives also had trouble reading and understanding the meaning of nonverbal cues, such as scowling or foot tapping.
This misunderstanding of cues early on can reduce a child’s ability to practice social skills, putting development on a downward slope. Still, even just having a few friends can help children to improve at social interaction, as can explaining to kids what they are doing wrong rather than scolding them for mistakes. McKown says: “It is important to try to pinpoint the area or areas in a child’s deficits and then build those up.”
At least 10% of school-age kids will experience some form of bullying during their lifetime, which can lead to isolation, bad grades, substance abuse problems, or awesome videogaming habits. After all, Mass Effect 2 won’t beat you up if you don’t understand a character’s facial animation. Joking aside, McKown believes social rejection “really is an under-addressed public health issue,” but understanding why it occurs could solve the problem for many kids out there. I don’t want any child to be bullied, but all these new cool kids better keep playing videogames too.