When Technology Reeks Havoc on Homework

by Alexandra Mayzler on February 22, 2010

Alexandra MayzlerI was sitting at a coffee shop the other day, happily drinking my latte and looking forward to some quiet time with my book. It was at about 3:30, just after school got out and students with overflowing backpacks were starting to file in to get some work done before dinner. In the corner near the window, I noticed a teenage boy sitting with his headphones on, texting like crazy with one hand and Facebook-ing with the other (his books had yet to come out of his book-bag). It took all of my energy not to go up to him and say, “You know, that is no way to study.”

Students today like to multitask, but homework time is a time to focus. Without wanting to gripe about the increasing use of technology in our daily lives, most of them detract from the study process. While listening to music quietly on headphones can help a student focus and drown out background noise, having music and the internet and the TV and the cell phone on create an overwhelming amount of distraction, which is not conducive to good studying. When it’s time to sit down and do homework, study for a test, or work on applications, almost everything needs to be turned off, including cell phones. While just one text message does not seem like a big deal, one text can lead to two which can lead to 15 minutes of unused homework time. It might be a good idea to ask your child to hand over his or her cell phone while doing homework, just to avoid temptation.

With all the social-networking sites out there, I am sure that your child has found at least one that he or she cruises on a regular basis, but Facebook and MySpace are not study tools (no matter what your child tries to tell you). Basically, social-networking sites are every possible technological distraction rolled into one: there are blogs and videos and chat windows and photos all on one page! All that stimulation should be off your child’s desktop window when it is time to do homework. If the computer needs to be on, please keep in mind that the only windows open should be a document, or perhaps a webpage necessary to a particular homework assignment. Facebook can wait; they can check status updates at a later time. This will require a lot of willpower because when one gets distracted, Facebook can be VERY tempting. The problem is, the longer one is distracted, the longer it takes to complete an assignment, and the later your child will be up working on it.

Now I know what you are thinking: what if my child needs to ask a friend a question about an assignment? Or, what if my child needs to be on the internet for homework or research? The answer is this: your child should have everything he or she needs to sit down and do homework BEFORE beginning. If there is a question about a due date, have your child call a friend before beginning to work to clarify any missing material or confusing assignment. If your child begins homework and has a question about how to solve a math problem, have your child do all of the ones that he or she knows first, and wait until he or she has reached a stopping place before calling a friend for help.

Sometimes it can be hard to balance everything (sports, school, friends, homework), and sometimes the feeling of being overworked creeps up on even the best students. You might hear complaints from your child that he or she has no life, and that the evenings are the only time to catch up with friends. When the whining begins, remind your child: the less he or she is distracted, the more free time in the long run. Encourage your kids to power down and open up the books, and that “one quick text” can wait until later. There was a time before Facebook and texting, and we made it through alright, no?

About the Contributor: Alexandra Mayzler is a regular contributor to the NYC Firm Schools Blog in the area of study skills.

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