What's Eating Your Child's Homework?
You might be surprised
A new school year is a good time to start good homework habits.
All across America, something is eating up children’s homework. And it’s not the family dog. It’s something far more destructive: digital distractions.
Science tells us that our child’s brain is developing slowly and even though he may be smart and may perform well in school, managing all the distractions that screens bring may prevent him from working up to his potential and, more importantly, prevent him from learning how to concentrate.
Minimizing these distractions will help your child establish important patterns for school success. So, with the new school year, take some time to set new guidelines for the use of technology during homework time.
Concentration: A Learned Skill
It’s particularly tempting for children to get distracted with devices and social media during homework time, especially if they are working on a laptop. Kids must learn to concentrate, and research is showing us that kids today are not learning this skill as they did in generations past. We all feel the pull of the buzz and pings of our phones as well as the itch to check our social media accounts; however, studies are revealing the downsides of those constant distractions. Children are especially vulnerable to suffer the consequences and long-term effects.
Researchers such as Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence explains that the ability to concentrate and focus is a key indicator of future success. According to Goleman, “This ability is more important than IQ or the socioeconomic status of the family you grew up in for determining career success, financial success and health.” He adds that he’s particularly worried about children “because the brain is the last organ of the body to become anatomically mature. It keeps growing until the mid-20s.”
Additional research from Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains,” Carr explains that broken concentration leads to a lack of encoding, or the ability to transfer information from short term memory to long term memory. In other words, the constant stream of distractions from our devices prevents encoding and the result is that our learning is shallow and often quickly forgotten.
In addition to failing to concentrate, students who are constantly distracted run the risk of also becoming less able to manage their emotions and less empathetic. This happens because the neural circuitry needed for concentration is identical to the neural circuitry needed for managing distressing emotion; I’ll save a deeper discussion of this important topic for another blog post.
Helpful Homework Guidelines
Parents who can keep those electronic distractions at bay during homework time will be helping their children to:
• practice the skill of concentrating
• learn the material better
• study more efficiently
After all, when you are trying to write a paper while checking Facebook, you are taking longer than necessary to complete the assigned task. So how do you minimize distractions during homework time? At Moms Managing Media, we suggest the following:
· Take up your child’s electronic devices during homework time. Many families designate a “tech basket” that stays in the kitchen, keeping the device out of sight and hopefully out of mind.
· Turn off the wireless/internet connection during homework time
· Have children write out homework using a pencil and paper first. After writing it by hand, the child then types it on the laptop. Bonus: Handwriting is also an excellent exercise for your brain.
· Have your children take small breaks to relax and rest their eyes and brains when they are working on a large assignment. They can look out the window, do some stretches or practice relaxation breathing techniques. Just don’t allow them to “check” tech devices during the break!
Remember, nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but the more students practice the discipline of concentrated attention, the easier it will become. Parents, your children need your intervention here because they, like you, are extremely vulnerable to the tug of their electronic devices. Help keep those digital devices from eating up their homework time by setting some healthy guidelines for device-free and distraction-free study hours. Your efforts will pay off in the short term and in the long term…memory, that is.