No Txt @ hmwork!


Who is better at multitasking?  You or your teenagers?  According to multiple studies, the answer is: you.   Most teens honestly think they are better because the not-quite-fully-developed part of their brain that multitasks (the frontal executive network) is also the part of their brain that monitors how well they are thinking.    

We know from adult studies that being interrupted during problem solving tasks leads to significantly lower IQ scores.  This effect is even worse for teens. Being interrupted during homework time by incoming or outgoing texts, email, or telephone calls, or giving into the impulse to go on Facebook will make it harder for your teen to complete their homework and effectively study.  The problem is, the immediacy of communication makes it difficult to set limits- teens (often rightly so) believe their friends will feel slighted, or they will miss major social events, if they are confined to radio silence for hours at a time.

Unfortunately, this problem is not limited to teens.  All of us must address the barrage of incoming information, while balancing the “NOW!” demands of communication. Here is an effective strategy that we can all use to manage that information, while still feeling connected in:

The 10 minute communication break.  Once an hour, tell your teen to schedule a 10 minute communication break.  For example, this could be from 2:50 until 3:00, and from 3:50 until 4:00. During that time they can respond to texts, write emails, go on Facebook, and use their cell.  After the 10 minutes, all devices are turned off until the next 10 till the hour.  

When adults use this strategy, they often are surprised by their increase in productivity and reduced stress.  Many will create an outgoing email that says they will respond at 10 till the hour, in order to manage expectations from colleagues and friends.  Your teen can do the same with their email or voice mail, writing this on their Facebook wall, and notifying friends in advance.  

Using this strategy allows parents to “put down the rope” in their ongoing tug of war against cell phones, texts, and Facebook during homework time.  When parents model similar strategies in their own home and work life, it creates significant buy in from teens. 

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