How parents can help kids set boundaries and focus better during the school year.
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.
The average amount of time a teen spends with digital media is 8 hours, a third of their day! While that makes sense as we head into more distance learning this fall, a large portion of that time is spent using multiple devices—which could be hampering how well they process information. The research is new and developing, but studies are starting to show that heavy digital multitasking could decrease academic performance, lead to increased impulsivity, limit social development, and may be linked to Attention Deficit Disorder, which can cause irritability, unproductiveness, and disorganization.
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.