Managing the Multitasking Generation

I just wrote a post about the brains of the multitasking generation and the cognitive costs of juggling too much at the same time. Here are some tips for parents to make sure your children have multitasking under control. Their brains will thank you!

  • Explain to your child that his or her brain is like a spotlight. It can only shine on one thing at a time. Share the research on multitasking with your kids.
  • Encourage your child to get ready for studying by relaxing and refocusing their attention on the task at hand. Most children also thrive on a studying schedule so they can plan on always doing their homework right after dinner, for example.
  • Make sure that your child’s study space is free from digital and other distractions. This means that when the text book opens, TV and Facebook go off.
  • Make sure your child’s cell phone is in the other room. No ringtones, no vibrations, no distractions.
  • Set aside a time right after studying for your child to check their Facebook page and look at texts.
  • The Internet can be a wonderful study tool. Help your child develop the skills to use the Internet to aid learning instead of eroding it. For example, unrelated YouTube videos are a distraction while other videos can be a great part of the self-directed learning and exploration possible online.
  • Ask your school’s media specialist or teacher for recommendations for online resources that aid studying and research.
  • It can take a while to develop the important skills of deep focus and attention. Don’t expect your kids to thrive in a calm studying environment right away! Don’t give up.
  • Set developmentally appropriate expectations for how long your child can focus deeply on a task. For example, your six year old isn’t likely to last more than fifteen or twenty minutes on a task. Your teen, on the other hand, can focus for a full fifty minutes with short two minute “brain breaks” every fifteen minutes or so.
  • Set a technological curfew in your household. Getting texts all night robs children’s brains of much needed rest.
  • Create clear expectations and consequences about “driving while texting or talking.” Distracted driving is very dangerous. Talking while driving is as dangerous as drunk driving and texting while driving is a recipe for disaster.
  • Try technology-free dinners. When any of us multitask at the table, we lose an important chance to connect with one another.