Multitasking Hinders Homework
Question: We’re having a battle at our home. I tell the children they’d be able to do homework and prepare for tests better and faster if they stop text messaging their friends at the same time. They tell me that they are good at multitasking and can easily do more than one thing at a time. Are they right?
Answer: People can walk and chew gum at the same time. And they can talk on a cell phone and sort clothes. But there are limitations to multitasking when tasks are more demanding, because you aren’t really doing two tasks simultaneously but switching rapidly from one to the other.
Researchers have used brain imaging to see what is happening when young people multitask. Studies have shown that the ability to do more than just mindless tasks at the same time is a myth. Your children cannot focus on their schoolwork and text message at the same time. Their brains shift between these tasks. And the more difficult the tasks, the longer it takes to readjust between them.
Children can learn while multitasking, but their learning is far less efficient and less long lasting. Children would do better to study for 20 to 30 minutes and then take an electronic break. This is especially true if they are working with difficult material that they wish to remember for a long time.
There does seem to be one exception to multitasking pitfalls: Listening to background music while studying may actually improve concentration by masking distracting noises.