One of the biggest obstacles facing many kids, is the stress associated with media multitasking. Today’s kids feel that they must be on their computer, texting, listening to music and doing homework all at the same time. Educational experts agree that this can lead to poor learning and, even worse, an overload of stress on a developing young mind. While it can be tempting to give into the pressure from your child to let them do as they like, it’s important to realize that early adolescence is a period of rapid, sometimes overwhelming, emotional, physical and cognitive changes. Even the best students may be distracted and disorganized; adding more stress to that situation is ill-advised. However, as a parent, you have the power to make a real difference in the environment they create; controlling the kind and amount of media your children use is a great start.
Here is what you need to know about how to help your children deal with media multitasking:
- Create a study-friendly space. Think about what makes a study friendly space. If your child’s room resembles a media arcade, it may be time to redecorate. You can also put the computer in the family room, kitchen or another open area. If that is not possible, you can declare an open-door policy for the bedroom, or disable Internet access, during homework time.
- Get your child involved. This is not the time to become heavy handed regarding the homework policy. If you feel your child is media multitasking and needs to cut back, involve him or her in the process. It is important to remember that developing self-discipline is critical to academic success; children must develop it on their own. Help your child determine what works for them. Show your child that you respect their judgment by asking what kind of homework policy works best for them. If you are unable to agree on a plan then try this. Let him work his way for a week and your way for a week. Here’s a parent-tested plan that works that you may wish to try. Ask your child to turn off all instant-messaging devices, during a pre-determined study time. Plan a 10-minute break during which they can return IMs or get something to eat. After that break, they must return to homework. A kitchen timer can be handy so they know when to log off. Most kids want to do well, so if you give them a voice they are more likely to stick to a plan.
- Reserve the right to change your mind. Even after you have worked out a plan with your child, let them know that it is results-oriented. Always remember that you are the parent. If your child’s progress reports show them falling behind, it is time to put new limits in place. Some parents have instituted a set time period of screen time per day, after homework, chores and other required activities. Some parents have instituted a no-media-on-school-night policy. This can be helpful since many children know they can use their media when their work is done causing them to rush to get through it.
- Do not be afraid to log off. Both children and parents need to understand that technology is not the culprit. Rather the problem is what you’re missing when you are constantly plugged in to technology. Take the time to understand why your child feels the need to be constantly plugged in. Help them to realize the real value of what they doing in the media world. Your kids need mental breathing space to relax and recharge, just like the adults in their life. Help your kids understand that they will not be missing out on the next big thing simply because they’ve taken the time to get go offline and take a breath.