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Parenting

Your Child: Multitasking and Homework

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Does your child multitask with media while doing his or her homework? If so, they’re not alone and most likely they are spending a lot more time trying to finish an assignment.

What might at first glance seem harmless, doing homework or studying while watching TV, texting or checking social media can actually impair learning the material as well as lower test scores. Research has shown that it's one of the worst study habits a student can develop.

Why is that?  Our brains are wired to focus on one activity at a time. It’s how we’ve survived over the centuries.

Doing two things at once actually comprises the brain, shifting its processing from one neural network to another. Each shift comes with a cost of consuming time, mental effort, and brain fuel. Microseconds are wasted as the brain turns off the active network and turns on the next. This not only costs time (which adds up) but also depletes the brain’s critical resources of glucose and oxygen. The result – less gets done and less is remembered. While the brain is switching gears – trying to focus on the next thing required- it’s retaining less and less.

Oftentimes, this lack of retention shows up as poorer grades, less intercommunication skills and generally being more distracted.

In a study of 8-18 year old students done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly one third of the students surveyed confessed that when they were doing homework, they were also watching TV, texting, or listening to music. Victoria Rideout, the lead author of the study, warns parents about the dangers of media multitasking. This concern is distinct from worrying about how much kids are online or how much kids are media multitasking overall. “It’s multitasking while learning that has the biggest potential downside,” she says.

Dr. David Meyer, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan observed that “under most conditions, the brain simply cannot do two complex tasks at the same time. Listening to a lecture while texting, or doing homework and being on Facebook—each of these tasks is very demanding, and each of them uses the same area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex." Most students incorrectly believe that they can perform two challenging tasks at the same time, according to Meyer. They may like to do it, they may even be addicted to it, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s far better to focus on one task from start to finish.”

Multitasking takes up a lot more time than focusing on one activity. Finishing homework can last much later into the evening causing kids to get less sleep than they need. 

Parents of students have to take an active role in their children’s study habits. During homework time, your child’s phone and the TV need to be turned off.  You may even have to put the phone in a different location in the house until homework is completed. A quick lesson refresher with your child after homework is finished can help you see how much your child is retaining and whether all the assignments have been completed.

The Internet can be a helpful tool when researching certain school topics; the trick is to stay on point without falling into the trap of checking out other tempting sites such as social media. Once on the computer, it takes a lot of self-control to stay focused on a singular subject. You may need to help your child stay the course during this time.

Be sure and praise your child for their accomplishments instead of making homework a battleground. The more they are able to develop good study habits, the less time it will take to complete their assignments and the sooner they’ll be able to check back in with their friends and find out what’s been going on.

Story sources: Michael Howard, http://www.beyondbooksmart.com/executive-functioning-strategies-blog/distracted-by-technology-focusing-attention-on-homework

Judy Willis M.D., M.Ed, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/radical-teaching/201611/the-high-costs-multitasking-you-and-your-kids

 

Your Child

Setting Up a Routine for Homework

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If yours is like a lot of families, you’re just not quite ready to face the homework hurdle. But like it or not, after school assignments have arrived and helping your child get into a regular routine can actually make it easier for everyone.

Deborah Linebarger, PhD, associate professor of education at the University of Iowa, has come up with six tips to help families get back in the assignment swing of things.

Be prepared: Even if you’ve already picked up all the supplies your child needs at school, make sure the staples needed to complete assignments are also available at home. Items like pencils, erasers, folders, clips, rulers, computer paper & toner should have their own space and be ready to use if needed. This is also a good time let them set up a special place in the house where they can work undisturbed and with all the supplies they need. You may discover you have a budding interior designer with a knack for organization!

Set A Schedule: You child should do her homework at the same time every day. Many kids need a break after school for a snack and a little running around first. It's best to get homework done as early as possible -- when it drags on past dinner and toward bedtime, the work is likely to take longer and be sloppier.

Bedtime: Don’t leave homework till the last minute, make sure that it’s finished and checked at least a couple of hours before bedtime. Just like adults, children need plenty of good sleep to function well the next day. Preschoolers typically need 11-13 hours each night. Six to thirteen year olds need around 9-11 hours and teens need about 8 -10 hours a night. Make sleep a priority by having a cool, quiet and dark bedroom. Establish an appropriate bedtime for your child and stick to it. Cut off the access to computers, TVS, phones and any electronics at a minimum of an hour before it’s time for sleep. Quieting and slowing down before it’s actually time to nod off can help relax your child.

Break it down. Younger kids might get a week's worth of homework on Monday to turn in by Friday. Older children may have big responsibilities like term papers and science projects. Help them break large projects into smaller steps, and make sure they start early.

Keep up with your child’s assignments so that you’re not surprised by a last minute science project the night before it’s due!

Encourage "peer collaboration" -- to a point. It may be helpful for siblings close in age to do homework together. The older one may be proud and happy to offer help to the younger one. But if they bicker more than they cooperate, it's time for separate spaces.

What if you have a child with ADHD? As you probably already know, children with ADHD are more likely to face extra challenges with completing their homework.

He or she will need even more supervision and guidance, Linebarger says.

"Start by breaking up homework into really bite-sized amounts," she says. "For a younger child, that may be only about 10-minute increments. Expand them slowly as they show they're able to handle it." And expect that your child will need you to watch her homework efforts closely to make sure he or she stays on task.

When they gets distracted -- and they will -- encourage your boy or girl to do something physical to get back on track. "Let her jump up and run around for 5 minutes, or have him do 10 push-ups or 30 jumping jacks," Linebarger says. "Research shows that acute physical activity right before a challenging mental task helps to control behavior."

Children with ADHD often hear a lot of criticism, be sure and compliment them and encourage them when they’ve completed a difficult task.

When they manage to sit still for that 10 minutes of homework, or come home with their homework folder in order, give them lots of praise for making a great choice," Linebarger says.

It won’t be long till summer is a fond memory and the school year is just how things are. You can help your child adjust to this either new or familiar way of getting through Monday through Friday by using the tips above and finding out what adjustments may need to be made to work best for your family.

Source: Gina Shaw, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/back-school-homework-routine

 

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