Kids today are adept at multitasking. According to research put out by the Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately one third of kids surveyed report using another form of media “most of the time” while they are doing other things, such as using a computer, listening to music or watching TV.
Experts say young brains are so exposed to an onslaught of media messaging from multiple and simultaneous sources that they have adapted to doing many things at once. Particularly for heavy internet users, their brains get better at processing information more efficiently.
One researcher in the United Kingdom, for instance, found it only takes heavy internet users two seconds on any website before deciding whether they are interested or not. This is because in the digital age, our brains are better at sorting and evaluating information at faster speeds.
You might think this is great news when it comes to your kids, but their ability to multitask has its limits. While it’s easy to go on “auto-pilot” and perform multiple tasks in familiar situations, it’s much more difficult to focus if both tasks require attention. That’s why driving and texting is so dangerous and is said to be just as deadly as drinking and driving; the brain can only do so many things at a time.
This is why it’s so important to learn to focus on one task at a time. Our minds need time to slow down, think creatively and deeply. Until our brains have evolved to meet the demands of the modern world, there are a few things you can do to help your child learn to focus on one thing at a time.
Set limits on when social media can be used. Would you like phones to be put away during family time, dinner, or before bed? Decide on the rules and enforce them.
Keep phones out of the bedroom. It’s easy for kids to stay up too late and become overtired.
When your kids are studying, make sure their study space is free from distractions so they can focus on their work. It’s easy to lose concentration when your phone is ringing or vibrating.
Teach your kids to use the internet as a study tool. The internet provides a wealth of information that can be useful when researching a school project, but funny cat videos on YouTube can be distracting. They can watch these videos, but at appropriate times, such as after their school work is complete.
Understand that it might take time for your kids to get used to focusing on one task at a time, especially when they are young. It’s easy for them to look for distractions and have a hard time concentrating and appreciating the calm, but this will develop in time. Stick with it.
Make sure kids take study breaks every so often. After concentrating for a certain time period, our brains also need time to rest.
Talk to your kids about the risks of driving and texting and set clear rules and consequences for infringements. It is very dangerous, but too many drivers are guilty of doing it. Suggest to your teen that they put their phones in the back seat or trunk while they are driving so they aren’t tempted. The consequences of texting and driving can be deadly.