Young Americans from the ages of 8 to 18 spend more than 7.5 hours a day on average using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device.

  • This calculation doesn’t include the 1.5 hours texting or the .5 hours talking on their cell phones
  • On top of that, many children are electronic multitaskers — surfing the Web, for example, while listening to music or watching TV
  • These youth pack nearly 11 hours of media content into that 7.5 hours
  • Heavy media use is correlated with behavior problems, lower grades, increased boredom and sadness

How are teens monitoring so many things at once?

  • Simple answer: They are not
  • What about mental down time for teens?
    • If teens fill every minute with a call or text or some sort of stimulation they may not be getting any sort of break or space they need.
  • What happens to family relationships at home when everyone is absorbed in their own media use?
  • What example do parents and guardians themselves model?
  • Parents and guardians are even more removed from what their teens are doing
    • Parents and guardians backing away or retreating from their children
  • Less human physical communication with one another/less time together
    • Verbal and Non-Verbal (such as facial expressions and body language)
  • Lack of genuine presence
    • Eye-to-eye human contact and connection is being replaced by quick, disembodied e-exchanges

Multitasking is not always bad.

It is a good skill to be able to attend to several things at once.

Some people perform well with some alternate stimulation, but too much causes a decrease in performance. However, dividing one’s attention into small slices has implications for the way people learn, reason, socialize do creative work and understand the world.

How does the brain handle multitasking?

It doesn’t!

You are trying to process many things at once and you are ordering and deciding which one to do at any one time. Things actually get done sequentially, or one task at a time.

A study by Poldrack & Foerde (2008) found that it was harder to learn new things when one’s brain is distracted by another activity; this distraction alters the brain’s learning processes.

How effective are you at any one thing if you are multitasking?

  • When people try to do two or more things (related or unrelated) at the same time, or alternate between tasks, efficiency goes down, errors go up, and it takes longer to complete the task (often double the amount of time).
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) have found through research that the quality of one’s output and depth of thought deteriorate as one attends to more and more tasks.
  • End result: you are more effective, doing one thing at a time.
    • o Mindfulness assists with this!

Related Articles:

Poldrack, R.A., & Foerde, K. (2008). Category learning and the memory systems debate. Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews, 32, 197-205