Lately, we’ve heard a lot about people who think they can multitask but perform poorly. So parents all over America are turning off music and screens, telling their teens to focus on the single task of studying. Good idea, right?
Maybe not for all teens. Two high school researchers put together an impressive study that challenged the idea that multitasking is always bad when trying to learn. In their study, the teens discovered that a certain group of teens can multitask and experience improved performance. It was only 15% of the study participants (400 total participants) but for that group, listening to music, checking email and generally multitasking worked for them.
Why? One thought is maybe the brains of digital natives (those who grew up on multitasking on media) have adapted to all the stimuli and can cope. OR maybe there is a genetic component. No one is really sure but it is interesting that not all people who are heavy media multitaskers do poorly. Some of these “supertaskers” may just be able to handle all the distraction.
Keep in mind that most people don’t do well on tasks when heavy media multitasking is involved. But maybe, just maybe, you have one of the few teens who can. Maybe the digital native brains are adapting. Since, this is only one study, more will need to be researched.
In the meantime, I’m telling my teens to put down the devices, study with no distraction like their old-school mom!
Source: Poster presentation at the American Academy of Pediatrics conference, 2014