Young people are losing the ability to read facial expressions as smartphones and computers replace face-to-face communication, according to one of WA's leading experts on children and technology.
Edith Cowan University researcher Donna Cross said children had historically learnt how to read faces by watching others and talking to friends and family but the growth of technology was changing behaviour. She said the loss of such skills could have implications for future relationships and employment.
"What we've seen when we watch young people using this equipment is that they're starting to lose the ability to watch faces and know what those faces mean," Professor Cross said.
"Every time you communicate with somebody, you're picking up information about how that conversation's going.
Now that's very important so that you can make decisions about the ways in which you continue that conversation.
"But as more and more young people spend a great amount of time sitting next to each other talking to the other person through a device, they're losing that ability."
It was revealed this week that Penrhos College had banned students from using mobile phones during breaks to encourage face-to-face conversations.
Speaking to parents and teachers at Presbyterian Ladies' College this week, Professor Cross said schools and parents should encourage children to spend time interacting "face-to-face and device-free" to develop their social skills.
For example, she said parents should take time to make eye contact when talking to their children.
But Professor Cross said banning social media was not the answer beyond a certain age.
She said teenagers would likely circumvent such a ban without learning how to use social media safely. She said parents should spend time watching how their children used social media and educate themselves.
Children should be taught how to use websites safely and be given skills to handle any negative experiences like cyberbullying.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver this week told a British magazine that he had banned his two eldest daughters Poppy, 11, and Daisy, 10, from using social networking sites for fear of them being cyberbullied.