Helping Kids Think About Media Multitasking

Brad M. Griffin | May 31, 2012

How are you talking with kids about media use over the summer?

Perhaps one layer of the conversation should focus around media multitasking.

According to an EdWeek article, Researcher Larry D. Rosen found that on average 13-18-year-olds engage with six different kinds of media at once while they are out of school. Six at one time. This “continuous partial attention” phenomenon is standard fare for teenagers (and many adults). Over the summer kids’ all-out engagement is likely to increase exponentially with the increase of unsupervised downtime.

Technology multitasking can have long-term implications for what happens when students return to the classroom in the fall, not to mention the workforce. Studies show that the ability to control and limit multitasking is an indicator of academic success. Our brains have trouble truly focusing on more than one task at a time, no matter how good we think we are at the juggling act.

The current litmus test for teenagers is texting. Can a student hold off on returning a text in the middle of class? In the middle of youth group? In the middle of a conversation with you? Research is now exploring the value of restraint in these situations on retention and test scores, but there are much deeper implications for our lack of true presence to one another.

What are you doing to help students think about—and take breaks from—media use this summer?

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.


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