Is Multitasking Beneficial? Tips for Teens with Many Responsibilities

By Huntington Learning Center

Today’s teenagers have a lot on their plates. Going to school, doing homework (and a lot of homework at that if they are in honors and/or Advanced Placement classes), studying for quizzes and exams, participating in sports or other extracurricular activities, volunteering, working part time…the list goes on and might include even more than this.

As a parent, you might assume that the best advice to give your student is to be highly efficient with their time or even multitask whenever they can. While multitasking feels to some students like they are achieving more (faster), most research says that there are far more cons than pros of multitasking.  

Here are a few things to keep in mind and tips to help your busy, involved student achieve everything they want to in the time they have:

Multitasking with certain tasks is okay. Generally, attempting to do a few tasks at the same time can result in poor quality on all of those tasks. But there are some more routine activities where multitasking might make sense. For example, if your student wants to exercise but has to listen to a podcast episode for their history class, they could easily put in earbuds and do both—provided the workout is fairly rote (like running or walking).

Frequent switching of tasks can actually slow your student down. The mental capacity it takes to start and stop different tasks and bounce between them is actually higher than the capacity required to focus on one task at a time. This is especially true for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), who already struggle to get going on things like homework and studying. Talk with your student about how sustained, focused connection with each task in front of them will result in greater efficiency—and getting more done.

Many students today are inherent multitaskers. Students now have grown up in the digital age and are used to a lot going on and constant brain stimulation. They do a little homework, check social media, watch a video, forget where they were in their homework, restart, answer a text message, and so on. Digital distraction is a real issue and can negatively impact a student’s ability to maintain their attention span and learn. So, as a parent, you will not be able to change your student completely. You can, however, help them understand the way they work best so they can learn effectively and be productive. You can also encourage them to avoid foolish habits like watching a show while trying to study.

Remember: Approach the multitasking topic as a conversation and not a mandate. You will have much more success if you get your student’s buy-in. Also, remind your student that you simply want to help them use their study time effectively, avoid distractions, focus, and do well in school.

If your child is struggling with feeling overwhelmed by all of their academic responsibilities, Huntington can help. Call us at 1-800 CAN LEARN to hear more about our individualized tutoring programs that help students learn to prioritize their work, be efficient and become better learners.