RESEARCH: Multitasking is Changing the Way Kids Learn

Science Direct. May 2013. via PlayScienceLab. (English). –Students sitting down to do homework, study, or otherwise focus on schoolwork get an average of 6 minutes in before switching to a technological distractor, according to a new study published in Computers in Human Behavior. This inability to stay on task and need to tune in to technology is certainly taking its toll on young users; those who accessed Facebook while studying actually had lower GPAs than those who did not. 

Electronic communication is emotionally gratifying, but how do such technological distractions impact academic learning? The current study observed 263 middle school, high school and university students studying for 15 min in their homes. Observers noted technologies present and computer windows open in the learning environment prior to studying plus a minute-by-minute assessment of on-task behavior, off-task technology use and open computer windows during studying. A questionnaire assessed study strategies, task-switching preference, technology attitudes, media usage, monthly texting and phone calling, social networking use and grade point average (GPA). Participants averaged less than six minutes on task prior to switching most often due to technological distractions including social media, texting and preference for task-switching. Having a positive attitude toward technology did not affect being on-task during studying. However, those who preferred to task-switch had more distracting technologies available and were more likely to be off-task than others. Also, those who accessed Facebook had lower GPAs than those who avoided it. Finally, students with relatively high use of study strategies were more likely to stay on-task than other students. The educational implications include allowing students short “technology breaks” to reduce distractions and teaching students metacognitive strategies regarding when interruptions negatively impact learning.


► Students studied less than 6 min before switching to technological distractor.

► Those who preferred to task-switch had more distractors and were more off-task.

► Those who accessed Facebook while studying had lower grade point averages.

► Those who used study strategies were more likely to stay on task.

► Strategies were provided to improve attention and reduce distractions.

Purchase and read full report (US$19.95) here.

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