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The Downside of Multitasking

Last updated 4 years ago

Does it seem natural to read while the TV is on? Do you often write emails while you’re on the phone? The more you can do in less time, the better, right? But, did you know that multitasking cuts down on productivity as much as 40%? How much of that book do we actually retain when the TV is sharing our brain space?

Is multitasking ever beneficial?
Yes. Some level of multitasking is necessary to life and important to brain development as we grow. Learning to walk and talk at the same time is crucial to development. Making dinner while talking on the phone is quite pleasant. But being a teenager (or an adult) who reads, writes, talks on the phone, and drives at the same is not an ideal goal.

So, how bad is multitasking?
Do our minds "go back to normal" when we are not doing several mental tasks at one time? Studies show that our brains are still alarmingly less effective when performing single tasks after multitasking. Learning to break multitasking habits and concentrating on one task at a time takes practice.

How can you help kids focus in our multitasking world?

  • Keep study areas quiet without the distraction of the phone or TV. (It may not be cool, but the benefits are real.)
  • Explain to younger children that their minds are like flashlights and work best when shining on just one thing at a time.
  • If you are using tablets, computers, and smartphones as learning tools, manage content filters so your kids are not trying to chat on Facebook, Twitter, or watch videos while they’re doing their homework.
  • Set aside time for technology. With both children and adults, it is helpful to set specific time frames for checking email, posting on social media sites, and watching TV. If this technology time - a few minutes before lunch, dinner, or after homework - becomes part of a routine, it can help us focus better when we are working.

If you are noticing ongoing problems with concentration, reading comprehension, and writing with your children, contact our specialists at the Literacy and Language Center in San Francisco. For more information or to make an appointment today, call
(415) 242-1205.

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