Managing Technology During Study Time

By Drew Sarmiere - September 19, 2019

Managing Technology During Study Time

When I was about 13 years old I regularly pestered my parents for a telephone in my room.  Fortunately, my parents recognized that allowing this would have created a huge distraction for me and, despite my efforts to wear them down, refused.  Though less than pleased at the time, in hindsight it was certainly the correct choice and, now, I’m thankful, and so is my grade point average . . . .

Oh, how times have changed.  Forget about a phone in your room, now it’s a phone in your pocket.  Strike that, a computer in your pocket, one that keeps you instantly connected at all times and is constantly buzzing and beeping with the latest texts, snapchats, selfies, instagrams, etc.  As an educator and academic coach, I witness daily first-hand the myriad distractions from which students these days suffer and the ways these distractions negatively impact academic achievement.  For many students, it’s extremely challenging for them to put down their phones, tune out their social media, and focus on their schoolwork.  However, as parents, there are many ways you can help your child manage these distractions and create a relatively distraction-free study environment.  

First, lose the phone.  Your child will likely tell you that it is not a distraction, and for some students it is not, but for most students it most certainly is, and a big one at that.  Of course, they will try to convince you that they need their phone to do their work but you must recognize this for what it is, simply untrue.  I need it for a calculator - use an actual calculator instead; a phone is not an appropriate calculator for school.  I need it to look up my assignments - use the computer.  I need it to ask my friends questions - so call them and ask them and then give me the phone, and if you can’t do your schoolwork on your own we’ve got bigger problems to deal with.  These wily creatures will come up with all sorts of reasons why they need their phone.  Simply put, they don’t.  

Second, lose the computer.  What?  But they definitely need their computer don’t they?  Not nearly as much as you think or that they’d like you to believe.  The majority of schoolwork is still completed the old fashioned way with pen and paper.  They may need it to look up their homework (though they should be using a planner which reduces this need), but that takes two minutes.  The most likely need will be to write a paper or an essay, but they’re not writing essays 24-7.  Trust me when I tell you your child does not need his computer to do his homework nearly as much as he says.  So, how about the times he does need the computer?  Well, if your child must use the computer yet struggles to stay on task, one easy remedy is to have him work on the computer in a place where he can be easily and secretly monitored.  Have him sit where you can see the computer screen at any time without him knowing it.  If he can see or hear you coming he can switch the screen faster than you can say boo, and you’ll have a hard time knowing what he’s up to.  

Third, lose the music.  This one’s a little bit trickier because the right music in the right situation can actually improve focus for some students, but most of the time it’s a distraction.  If your child insists that listening to music helps her focus, then watch her and see.  Is she mouthing the lyrics?  Is she tapping her pencil or nodding her head to the music?  Is she picking a new song every two minutes?  If so, it’s a distraction and needs to go.  One alternative you can try is allowing her to listen to music that lacks lyrics like jazz, classical, or electronica, for example, and see how that goes.  

Finally, provide a quiet, dedicated workspace for your child.  Students are more focused and productive if sitting at a desk dedicated only to schoolwork and studying.  Many students like to sit on their bed or on the floor.  If your child feels strongly about this, I’d say let it slide if they’re staying focused.  If not, use the desk.  

Utilizing these strategies when needed can greatly improve your child’s focus, efficiency, and learning.  
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