My 13 year old son is doing his homework on an iPad (provided by the school). While doing that, he stays connected to his teachers and classmates via his smartphone, chatting and asking questions, and (how can I forget…) sharing memes.
My 10 years old daughter gets most of her school assignment on paper, but on occasions she needs to send her work via google docs, do a research for a class project on-line, or prepare a presentation to share with her class using Power Point – for those she uses the house computer.
My neighbor’s son is in high school, where I was told kids can bring their own laptop to take notes and do homework. When her son comes home from school, he locks himself in his room (typical teenage boy behavior, so I was told), listens to music on the iPad, and chats with his friends on his iPhone, while the laptop is open for the current homework assignment.
My kids and my neighbor’s kid are not alone, we see more and more students using technology for their homework. Student surveys show almost third are using a tablet for it, while like my son, 65% are using a laptop for homework.
To make it even more challenging, 39% of 14 year olds reported using a smartphone to complete their homework, 42% of 6th graders, while 57% of 8th graders did the same (based on a study from Teen Research Unlimited, done for the Verizon Foundation found).
There are Great Benefits for Technology When It Comes Homework
Having the option to rely on technology makes scheduling easier. With tools like Google calendar, and other calendar apps, a 7th grader can have all assignment in the calendar. And Google can remind him or her to study for a test. It can also show the list of projects scheduled for the following week, making it easier to plan ahead.
Plus, teachers are more accessible as many are on social media for the students to contact with and ask questions.
For parents, it’s an easy window to see the child’s progress and keep an eye on what’s going on at school. For the child, the ability to finish and submit homework electronically, lower the chances of forgetting to submit or lose homework sheets, that make a big difference — make the already stressful life a bit easier for both.
When Getting Down to Do Homework
In a study conducted by Dr. Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University — Dominguez Hills, he surveyed high school students and asked them how often they switch from studying to doing something related to technology such as checking email, social media, texting, or even watching TV. Across all grade levels, 80% of students reported that they switch between studying and technology somewhat often to very often. Rosen calls this “Continuous Partial Attention”, meaning that most of the time, students are not focused on studying but rather are moving their attention back and forth between studying and various forms of technology.
Rosen explains, “Young people’s technology use is really about quelling anxiety…they don’t want to miss out or to be the last person to hear some news (or like or comment about a post online).” One of the major problems with texting and posting on social media sites while in class and/or studying, is that “they draw on the same mental resources — using language, parsing meaning — demanded by schoolwork”. Ultimately, he concludes, if we want students to learn and perform at their best, smartphones and other online distractions must be managed.
This, as you might expect, affected their grades, and quality of work. Students who were less distracted had higher GPAs than students who switched back and forth often and those who regularly check Facebook or text messages. Students who had strategies for studying also had higher GPAs per Rosen’s findings.
My Tips to Stay Focused
As you can see, technology use, while it has a lot to offer our kids in and out of school, has a cost. We just need to make sure we stay on top of it.
Boundaries – If we want our children to succeed at school and be able to utilize technology (and we all do), we need to set boundaries. Discuss with your child the appropriate time and place to use technology, and make sure they follow those rules. For example, when working on their huge social studies assignment, the TV and the phone with social media need to be off.
Tech breaks – Teach him or her to take technology breaks, in-order to separate doing homework from using technology. Go shoot some hoops, grab something to eat, ride the bike around the block, etc.
Tech free zone – If an assignment can be done with pen and paper, make sure technology is not in the room. Yes, they can listen to music but that’s it.
Turn off notifications while doing homework. The constant notifications are known to interfere with concentrating on the task in hand, and draw them into something they should not be doing.
Use parental control tools to block their usage on their devices when it’s time for homework.
Keep on talking – Lastly, keep the conversation going. Whether if it’s with reminding them of the need to take a technology break or refining the rules you set.
The school year is almost over, but it’s not too late to start making those changes, actually it’s even better. For those who are facing finals, it can improve their studying, and ultimately their final grades; and for the rest, it will give a head-start for the next school year, as it will already be part of their familiar routine.
Tali Orad, Founder & CEO of Screen / Founder of B.E.CPR, Inc
Entrepreneur and engineer, but most importantly, a mom to a son and two daughters, little angels that were spending way too much time on their electronic devices. That’s what inspired Tali to create Screen and reconnect with her family.
Originally published at medium.com