Multi-Tasking or Multi-Distracting?

  • Some kids apparently can’t just sit down and focus on their homework at the exclusion of everything else.

    “Well, I’m writing an essay about the American and French revolutions,” says 15-year-old Luke while sitting at his computer, “and I’m checking my e-mail and my Myspace [account] at the same time – and listening to my music.”

    Sixteen-year-old Leslie gets “trapped” on Facebook.

    “Facebook, just, you kinda get trapped in it. And so like you’ll be looking at one profile, but then you’re able to look at the pictures and then you see something in a picture that you know so you’ll look at their profile and it’s just like, you just keep on going. You know, maybe after an hour on it I would notice that I had pretty much not as much time [for homework] as I thought I would when I first started,” says Leslie.

    While some kids argue they can handle all of these things at the same time, experts disagree.

    “Studies have shown that, when the children are watching TV while doing their homework, and they pick up their heads to watch a part of the program, they lose their focus on their homework and they start paying more attention to the television set,” says Bonnie Cohen-Greenberg, director of BCG Learning Center.

    And, Cohen-Greenberg says, losing focus means kids won’t remember what they’ve studied.

    “Well, the problem is, if you’re not really paying attention to something, you’re not really learning it,” she says. “So it’s not going to stay in your long-term memory. Many times, children can describe what they see on TV while they’re doing their homework much easier than they can describe the type of homework assignment they had – because the TV show is a lot more engaging to them.”

    What Do You Think?

    1. How do you define multi-tasking? How many things do you find yourself doing at one time?
    2. What are the benefits? What are the costs?
    3. Take the conversation challenge: Have a face-to-face conversation with the person sitting next to you. Eliminate all distraction: no phone, no texting, no computer, no emails, no interruptions. How does this feel? Did you feel more engaged?
  • Video Overview

    We call it multi-tasking, but it all might just be a major distraction. Researchers at Boston College tracked the eye movement of students trying to divide their time between television and a computer. The result was significant disruption, a major lack of focus and an inability to pay attention. The question is: Does multi-tasking really work, or are teens fooling themselves?

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