Parents, listen carefully - technology may be turning your kids into jerks!

Developmental psychiatrist Dr. Sara Konrath says that kids today consume three times more screen-based media than they did 50 years ago. They also score 40 percent lower on tests that measure empathy and compassion for others. And get this: The decline started after videogame consoles, smartphones, and laptops became common.

Dr. Konrath believes that videogames are especially harmful because the on-screen violence desensitizes kids to real-world suffering, but social media also plays a huge role. That’s because socializing online, taking virtual classes, and communicating by text and email – instead of face-to-face – robs kids of the opportunity to learn how to interpret how others feel by using tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.

The shift to online socializing and learning is also changing how kids think. Virtual interactions rely heavily on the logical, problem-solving areas of the brain – which is reflected in the higher IQ scores of today’s 20-somethings. But, the circuits that control empathy aren’t getting the workout they need, and our expert believes that kids are paying the price because they’re less able to form meaningful relationships.

What’s the fix? Cutting down on kids’ screen time is a no-brainer. Experts recommend no more than two hours a day for school-aged kids. And zero screen time for children under two years old – which means you can’t keep them quiet in a restaurant by handing over your smartphone. And make sure your children exercise the social parts of their brain by spending a lot of time interacting with and playing with other kids.