5 Tips to Help Kids Resist Digital Distractions During Homework
Written by Julia Storm
Well it’s that time again. Summer has come to a close and the school bell is about to ring. For some of us parents this comes as a welcome reprieve from the hectic summer days, but for others the school means stress – especially when it comes to homework. Homework has always been a topic of contention between parents and kids, but these days with so many digital distractions, the prospect of getting our kids to sit down and focus feels as daunting as climbing Mt. Everest. It’s hard enough if your child has a phone, but if you’ve got a kid in middle school with homework on the computer it gets even more complicated.
Here are some tips to help you help your child so that homework time can be a little more productive and a little less painful.
1. Before school starts (or at least in the first week) sit down with your child and try to come up with a homework plan together. In my experience working with kids, I’ve learned that they too find the distractions stressful. Kids want to be successful, they just have a harder time with impulse control – especially with so many temptations at their fingertips. Some questions you can ask your child:
- What would you like homework time to look like ideally so that you can meet your goals?
- What is your biggest digital distraction?
- Would you like some help to minimize those distractions during homework time?
- What does it feel like when homework piles up and you can’t get it done?
Now you’ll present the following tips as helpful suggestions and together you’ll form a plan.
2. Most experts agree that if your child has non-digital homework it’s best to do that first. Save the computer based homework for last so that at the very least they’ve accomplished some of the work without battling the temptation of the computer.
3. Come up with a schedule for breaks to check in with friends, check email, shoot some hoops or take a quick walk. If you build breaks into the homework schedule your child will probably be more likely to stick to a work goal. Knowing that after ½ hr or 45 min of focused work they get a 10 minute break will make them more likely to focus on the task at hand.
(As an aside – kids are so smart that they’ve figured out that they can chat via the Google apps they use for school – make sure you remind them that they’ll be given time to chat once the work is done, this is the time to focus).
4. Create a homework environment that is conducive to focus and stamina. While it’s tempting to give your child a homework desk in their room, it’s way too easy for them to sneak in distractions like YouTube and Snapchat if they are alone. Consider setting up a space in the dining room or at a little desk in the shared area of your home. If there is too much distraction in the shared areas of your home, here are some tips:
- If you have a desk in the bedroom, try to have it positioned so that you can see the computer screen from the doorway if you walk by.
- Bedroom door should stay open.
- Consider earplugs or noise cancelling headphones to help your child maintain focus.
I’d also recommend putting a small snack plate by their side – a little fuel to keep them going!
5. Consider using technology to help! You can hide the most distracting apps and websites during homework time with both parental control apps (Unglue, Bark, Screentime) and simple productivity apps (Freedom). Sometimes will power simply isn’t enough (even for adults!).
One last word on homework drama. It’s hard to watch our kids struggle against all these distractions, and sometimes they may not win the battle – they may actually fail to get the work done. Think carefully before you swoop in to save them in these moments. If your child knows that they have you there to ultimately save the day they have little incentive to change their habits. Sometimes we have to let our kids face the negative consequences that technology brings with it so that they can make better choices next time and come up with creative solutions for meeting their goals.
Good luck parents!
Julia Storm is a Los Angeles-based Digital Media Parenting Educator and founder of ReConnect, a whole child and whole family approach to preparing kids for life in the Digital Age. Prior to launching ReConnect, Julia served as Director of Production for The Mother Company; a production company dedicated to creating media for young children based on social-emotional curricula. During her tenure at The Mother Company Julia produced award-winning children’s media content for Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and PBS in partnership with the top child development specialists in the country. She formed a relationship with Common Sense Media and started to develop an interest in the role that screens play in the social/emotional wellbeing of children. In her quest to better understand and educate herself about the way digital technology, specifically mobile devices, were impacting children, schools, and family systems, Julia sought out researchers, psychologists, and journalists.
The Mother Company is on a mission to Help Parents Raise Good People. We do this with our children’s Emmy-winning television series, Ruby’s Studio, a series of preschool and early educational picture books, free teacher guides, music and more, all about social and emotional learning.
Posted in: Screen Time