Online Homework Distractions & How to Stop Them

Aug 28, 2017

Many parents can relate to the nightly homework struggle—kids want to hang out with friends, watch TV, play video games, or do basically anything besides their homework. Once parents actually get their kids to sit down and get started, the battle continues with constant distractions like siblings, friends, and TV. But, one of the most prominent distractions today is the internet.

Obviously, the internet is an amazing tool and now most school assignments are done online or require the internet to complete. It’s opened up the world of education, but has also created a constant distraction for students. Multi-tasking seems to be the new norm and studies show students can’t stay focused on one task for more than two minutes. Most homework or studying time is spent in what Dr. Larry Rosen, professor at California State University - Dominguez Hills, calls “Continuous Partial Attention.” Students spend most of their time switching between studying and technology. The students who have learned to limit distractions while doing homework tend to have higher GPAs.

Researchers have found that “[people who multitask] are not being more productive — they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work.” So really, even though your teen may say that they are getting more work done while they have Netflix on in the background or are texting, they are actually feeling a false sense of satisfaction for getting all that done at once.

What are Online Homework Distractions?

Social Media: One of the biggest online distractions is social media. Sites and apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are making it harder than ever for kids to stay focused on homework. The constant smartphone notifications make it nearly impossible to ignore the lure of social media, which can be a lot stronger than the urge to finish math homework. PBS reported results from a 2016 study that was published in the International Journal of Communication; “children who regularly use online social networks, such as Facebook, tend to obtain lower scores in math, reading, and science than students who never or hardly ever use these sites.” While it’s a common outlet for many kids, limiting social media use, especially while studying or doing homework, could have serious benefits.

Videos: Websites like YouTube and Vimeo, with a seemingly endless supply of videos, are especially easy for students (and adults) to get sucked into. Kids may take a harmless break from homework to watch a quick video and before they know it, they’ve wasted a good chunk of time.

Chat: Many people in the professional world, especially those that work online, know just how distracting chat platforms can be. It's the same for students. Texting and messenger applications, like iMessage and Facebook Messenger, allow students to talk to one another 24/7. It’s nearly impossible for kids to stay 100% focused on homework while carrying on conversations with friends.

How to Stop Online Distractions:

How to Stop Online Distractions:Distractions are a form of everyday life and we can’t prevent them all, but online distractions can be relatively controlled. Here are a few ways parents can teach kids how to focus on homework:

  1. Turn off phones, put them in a different room, or turn on “do not disturb” mode. The do not disturb function on Net Nanny, for example, is great because as a parent I can remotely “Pause the Internet” for whatever time of day I select. I can block the internet during homework time, meal time, or bed time. With the internet paused it stops all notifications from appearing on your screen and stops all notifications.

  2. Restrict social media and messenger use while doing homework. Since social media is such a large distraction, parents can set restrictions on social media use and messaging apps until homework is completed. One easy way to monitor this is to create a communal space for homework. Rather than letting your child do homework in their room with doors shut, setup a workspace in the living room or family room where parents can easily see their computer screen.

  3. Provide other break outlets. It’s important to give your kids’ brain a break while doing homework or studying. It's more beneficial and efficient to encourage your kids to do a physical activity rather than perusing a break online. They could go for a quick walk, play a game of ping pong, play with the family pet, or kick a soccer ball around. Getting up and doing something physical for 10 or 15 minutes can help your child refresh and get back on track. It gives the brain a break without letting them get caught up in the lure of social media or online activities.

  4. Make homework a routine. It’s not always possible to have your child do homework at the same time every day. But, keeping it relatively consistent will make it easier for them to detach from technology and focus. If kids know they come home from school, have a snack, and within 30 minutes start homework, then they get into a routine and know they will be disconnected from technology while focusing on school.

Approximately 80% of students reporting they spend most of their studying time switching back and forth between homework and online distractions. It’s important for parents to do their best to create a quiet, peaceful, distraction-free homework setting whenever possible. This isn’t always easy in the world of technology, but online distractions can be lessened by setting a few simple rules, restricting phone and social media use, and encouraging healthy after school homework and break routines at an early age.