When your child is supposed to be doing homework, are they chatting with their friends on Facebook or playing games? Are you worried that this behavior is affecting their grades? You’re right!! If you want your child to do a good job with their homework and get good grades than you may want to start teaching them that multitasking isn’t a good idea.
Multiple studies have shown that multitasking doesn’t work, even though your child is probably proudly claiming they can do ten things at once! Many people believe that they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously, but expert and psychiatrist, Dr. Edward Hallowell says this is a myth. The reality is that shifting tasks results in poor job performance. We need to be teaching our kids that multitasking is a myth and teach them the art of paying attention and focusing on one task at a time.
Multitasking Affects Learning
Multitasking affects learning as performance degrades and time is lost with every task that is multitasked say Dr. Sherry Turkle and Dr. Rene Morois. New devices such as smartphones, Ipads, games and social networking sites make it very easy to multitask and “attention share” resulting in difficulty focusing on the task at hand such as listening in the classroom or doing homework. Unfortunately, “the brain actually rewards kids for multitasking by releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine, even though performance on every task gets worse and worse. Kids don’t know that they are doing worse because they feel better when they multitask.”
Since the emergence of hand held devices and social networking sites like Facebook teachers have noticed a difference in academic performance, critical thinking skills and how information is processed. “Multitasking prevents people from gaining a deep understanding of the information they are trying to learn.” Kids have a difficult time sticking with a ‘difficult to understand’ topic and are more apt to allow themselves to be distracted, to tune out and switch over to Facebook or using their cell phone rather than working harder at understanding a difficult subject or problem. In the long run, the shifting of attention by multitasking affects grades. One study showed that kids that use the Internet while in class did poorly on tests resulting in lower grades.
Teach the Art of Focusing
The computer and cellphones are here to stay, so it’s important to teach kids the value of focusing on one task at time, working hard to understand a difficult subject in order to optimize results and learning. It’s time to actively teach our kids the art of focusing by having them put the cellphone away while they are studying, and not to chat with friends on Facebook-while they’re writing a paper. When kids understand how multitasking affects their learning… they may decide to turn off those devices and do a good job on the homework assignment at hand. Most kids want to do well in school and they need to understand that multitasking affects academic performance. We need to teach our children this life-long-learning-skill before they go to college. Parents need to monitor their child’s homework behavior to make sure they are learning this skill.
What Parents Can Do
As parents we need to model the art of focusing and device behavior by:
- Not allowing cellphones, computer use to interfere with your relationship with your child. Put your device away. Be completely available when your child is talking to you.
- Put all devices away during mealtime.
- When you’re spending time with your child at soccer games, a shopping trip, what ever- put your devices away. Kids feel it when your not focused.
- During your bedtime routines such as reading a story, put your devices away. This is time to focus on your child, not to multitask using your cellphone or blackberry.
- Monitor your child’s homework time. If they’ve been allowed to multitask while doing homework, it’s going to take some time to learn new healthy habits. Be patient but persistent! Trust but verify that they are learning this important skill. (ScreenRetriever-available at ScreenRetriever.com-allows you to check in live while your child is doing their homework to make sure your child is not on Facebook or playing games etc.)
You are teaching your child skills for life long learning, job habits and how to be a good parent as well. In the long term it will be well worth your time and effort to teach your kids the art of focusing.