Classrooms are reopening, but tech will still be a big part of school life. Here are ways to keep kids focused on one device, and one lesson, at a time.
Being able to multitask is usually considered a worthy skill to have, but not when it comes to digital multitasking and our kids. Does your kid watch TV or check social media while doing homework? Or type furiously on their phone while talking to you about their school day? They are a digital multitasker and—no matter what they proclaim—they are not efficiently completing either or any task.
Before the pandemic, teens were spending nearly a third of their day on digital media, and that didn’t include time spent on schoolwork. We all know the last 18 months changed all that for students. But while tech will still be a big part of their lives this school year and future years, how they use it matters. Studies show that heavy digital multitasking could impact how tweens and teens learn and develop cognitively over time. Decreased academic performance, poor attention, memory deficit are just a few negative outcomes of multitasking. When you throw in actions like texting while driving, it can be dangerous too.
While there is reason for concern, applying some ground rules with your kids can help mitigate the long-term effects of digital multitasking:
Turn off phones while learning, online or otherwise. The pinging and vibrating of a shiny device will pull a kid’s attention away from class and homework. Instead, turn off notifications and the device altogether, and plan a social break for kids after class or when they finish an activity. They can then respond to texts or social media messages when the time is right.
Get kids in the habit of writing to-do lists. This is a great long-term habit to help kids prioritize tasks rather than try to tackle them all at once. Have them write a list of things they need to get done for school, home, and their social life so they can complete each task with more focus and attention.
Keep homework and TV time separate. Kids can’t efficiently do their homework with the TV on, no matter what they might say! Assignments take longer, accuracy suffers, and background television noise can reduce reading comprehension. Keep their study area outside of the TV area if possible, and instead use TV as a reward for your hard-working student. Allow them to turn a show on after they finish their assignments.
Plan family breaks from devices. Media multitasking can contribute to decreased family interaction and breakdowns in traditions. Encourage family time by putting all devices away (including your own!), turning off the TV, and pulling out a board game or a puzzle that requires concentration on a specific goal.
Use Circle to block distractions. Circle does the hard work for you by helping you streamline your kid’s online schedule. With just a few taps in the Circle app you can filter online content, set digital time limits, and schedule times when a device should be turned off—without relying on your teen to do it every time. It makes your own screen time multitasking easy peasy. Learn more.
To learn more about managing screen time with your family, check out Circle’s guide to Everything Parents Need to Know About Screen Time.