The Teenage Brain: Multitasking and Screen Addiction

Sep 19, 2016

As anyone who has once been a teenager or is in the process of raising teens can agree, multitasking and learning go hand in hand when it comes to trying to be successful in all aspects of teenage life. Teens swear that by multitasking they are getting more done and it helps them focus. But we have all heard the arguments from scientists and researchers; to work efficiently we must focus on a single task – which means no multi-tasking!

But in the end, both teens and parents give in to temptation and end up multitasking. Its so common that it is hard to recognize that you or your teens are doing it: we have our phone open to our emails on our lunch “break,” we have our laptop open while we are watching TV, and most commonly teens have music or the TV on while they are supposed to be working on that homework assignment or project.

A surprising fact that researchers have found is 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 efficiently while they have Netflix on in the background and they are texting all their friends, they are just feeling a sense of satisfaction for getting all that done at once and not actually getting a great deal done.

Teenage students are also at a higher risk for developing an addiction to all that tech they are using while they are “multitasking.” The teenage brain is still developing and growing up until your early 20s (and possibly even later). This means that the areas of the brain that control impulse control and risk-taking behavior are some of the last to be fully developed.

In today’s world of continuing technological advances, it is easy for teens to get sucked into the world of laptops, tablets, smart phones and many other devices when they are trying to work. As a young college student myself, I admit I am quite guilty of getting easily distract by my smart phone or laptop. I definitely have moments when I am trying to get work where I have to take a step back and say, “Should I really be checking my emails, my phone or my laptop right now?” In a world where teens and students are encouraged to use technology to make their lives and workload easier, it is important as parents to encourage your children not to depend on today’s technology to accomplish every task.

Dependency on smart phones and tablets to finish work or even relax is fueling the new “tech-addiction” that more and more teens are experiencing daily. Even though the convenience and capabilities that this tech offers can be seen as an advantage, encourage your teen to make some time to connect with people and the world around them. Nothing helps a growing teenage brain more than a little face-time and the potential to make great memories with friends and family.

Here are some household rules to adjust your family’s digital behavior to reduce the risk of tech dependency and “tech-addiction” for your growing teens and the rest of the family:

  • No technology during meal timesCreate a space where your teens can talk to you about their busy day. This family time is extremely important and is essential to create memories for your children. Feel free to even make a “tech-free” basket that everyone can place his or her smart phones and gadgets in to ensure meal times can be distraction free.
  • No screens in bedrooms at nightOnce your teens have gone to bed, make sure they are getting the sleep they need for their growing brain. Because even though they said they are going to bed, they could be on their phones surfing the web or checking up on social media. This late night exposure to blue light from phones and tablets could throw your teen’s sleep schedule even more out of whack, and could cause more issues in the long run if this behavior continues. Net Nanny allows parents to “Pause the Internet” during sleep hours to remove the temptation of late night texting or internet surfing.
  • No phones in the car – except for GPS useNearly one out of four accidents in the US are caused by texting and driving. With many teens starting to drive, make sure they know the rules if they are going to be driving.
  • Create a Family Contract for Electronic DevicesNet Nanny® has a great solution to make sure everyone in your family sticks to the rules for technology use. Take a look at their Family Contract or even talk to your family about making your own. By everyone agreeing to your family’s new rules, it can create a safer environment overall and will decrease the risk of your teens developing a tech addiction.