Years ago, Cyberwise co-founder Cynthia Lieberman and I visited a school in Los Angeles, California, to deliver a presentation to its parents. During events like these, I often try to break the ice by asking parents this question: When you think of your kids and tech, what’s the first word that pops into your head? Inevitably that word is: addicted.
This night was no different, parents were eager to discuss the amount of time their kids were spending online. As they took turns expressing their anguish over this “addiction” issue, I peered over their heads to watch their kids who were sitting quietly in the rear of the auditorium. They were all busy on devices—iPads, laptops, smartphones—and completely oblivious to our conversation. When I pointed this out to their parents, they explained that their kids had to be online because they were “doing their homework.”
Curious to see what they were really doing, Lieberman roamed the room. Surreptitiously glancing over the kids’ shoulders, she spied Instagram posts, Snapchat Stories, and text messages (lots of text messages) … and some homework. “What they were actually doing, is what former Apple and Microsoft executive Linda Stone coined as paying ‘continuous partial attention,’ where the brain switches back and forth quickly between tasks,” says Lieberman.
If you ask kids about it, they’ll tell you they can successfully manage all the things their devices let them do at once. But the truth is, switching from one task to another causes both tasks to suffer. Contrary to what most kids think, it takes longer to finish multiple tasks when jumping back and forth between them, than it does to finish each one separately.
When it came to her portion of the presentation, Lieberman decided to ask the kids what they typically do on their devices, and in fact, what were they doing right then. Smirks and giggles erupted as a few chimed in, “Homework,” “Yeah, homework, of course.” When she pressed to find out if they were only doing homework, most squirmed uncomfortably in their seats before admitting, “well maybe we were doing some texting and playing games in between too.”
“The truth is, the constant barrage of digital distractions inside and outside of class are a tremendous challenge for kids to manage,” says Lieberman. “Parents need help trying to keep their young learners on task.”
Parental Monitoring Software Can Help
With children getting their first phones at increasingly younger ages, it is essential that parents make sure those phones are loaded with parental monitoring software. Why? Well up until about 13-years of age, kids are ill-equipped to make good decisions about how and how long to use their devices. Their brains simply are not ready to do this work. And even older kids, teenagers, need help balancing the time they spend online and, more importantly, ensuring that the time the do spend online is spent productively (i.e., doing homework).
The parental control software options available to help parents with this task are, simply put, amazing. For pennies a day, or sometimes even for free, parents can have peace of mind about what kids are doing online and how long they are spending doing it. At Cyberwise we’ve reviewed almost every parental software company on the market, and we are really excited about Mobicip. It offers all the bells and whistles a parent could want plus it is easy-to-use and you can try it for free. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Kids need our help managing all the wonderful things their devices have to offer, and all the wonderful things real life has to offer too. Please help them with this difficult task.
Writing credit: Diana Graber is the co-founder of Cyberwise (aka, No Grownup Left Behind) and Cyber Civics (the middle school digital literacy program that teaches students how to become thoughtful, ethical, and smart digital citizens). She is also the author of the forthcoming book: Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology (HarperCollins Leadership/World Rights/2019)