Your teen lives in the modern world. Between phone calls, texting, email, instant messages, Snapchat, and any other number of social media opportunities that distract him, he has to learn to establish boundaries for himself in order to get any work done at all.
Do Not Disturb
When students are hammering out a paper or other project, there should be none of this electronic interruption until they’ve finished, and for good reason. Setting aside these distractions is sort of like hanging an e-version of the “Do Not Disturb” sign.
I’m going to become very unpopular with your teens—and so will you, if you take my advice: Unplug the Internet cable during their computer time and turn off their cell phone, if they have one.
Yes, unplug. They may not appreciate it, but you’ll do your teens a favor to limit social media.This will make it impossible to go online or get interrupted by a text message while they’re working on an essay or report. If they need to do research online, have them separate the research process from the writing process. Let them work online . . . and then simply unplug the cable when their research is complete.
What’s the Big Deal?
When students try to do schoolwork while catching up on Snapchat or texting with friends, they lose the ability to focus and concentrate. As a result, the quality of their work suffers. In addition, they’ll require more time to finish the project. For one, the interruptions themselves take time. But more importantly, these breaks—no matter how short in duration—require students to keep refocusing when they finally do return to the task at hand.
I regularly experience this myself. I have two tasks open on the desktop, email open on the laptop, my phone pinging at every new Facebook notification, and a barrage of projects stacked on my work surface. When I flit back and forth among them like a restless butterfly, I often close out my day feeling like I got absolutely nothing accomplished. Instead, I end up with myriad loose ends dangling everywhere and just as much on my to-do list as when I woke up.
But when I commit myself to one project at a time, visit my inbox a few times a day instead of several times an hour, and steer clear of both Facebook and the phone during those designated working hours, I am so much more productive as I pick off a whole bunch of little tasks (or take a nice chunk out of a bigger project). The sense of accomplishment is huge for me—and your teen can experience this too.
Ways to Monitor or Restrict Social Media
Families will approach this differently, but here are some ideas and resources to help you limit social media or monitor your teens’ online presence:
- Keep a basket in a central location where all the kids keep their tablets and phones during school hours.
- Install a parental control app such as OurPact or ESET on your teens’ devices to limit their social media time. An app is effective for a student who has a hard time self-monitoring.
- One of my favorite computer apps is Strict Workflow. When students click the icon, they’re automatically shut out of social media, video games, or other favorite websites for a set period of time (it’s both customizable and free). Strict Workflow makes a good option for a teen who’s fairly responsible as a rule but can lose track of time.
- Set a good example and limit your own social media use during school time.
Goodbye to Multitasking
Making electronic access difficult (or impossible) forces teens to pour all their concentration and effort into their writing. This ability to separate work from play is of the utmost importance at college where they won’t have your help making such wise choices. In your “home training center,” once your kids figure out how much easier it is to write a paper in an uninterrupted chunk of time, they may never go back to multitasking again!
That’s it for now—I’m off to take a dose of my own medicine.
Please do not disturb.
Catch the Whole Series
College prep 101: Take deadlines seriously
College prep 101: Learn to meet deadlines
College prep 101: Create a quiet workspace
College prep 101: Teach responsible study habits
College prep 101: Focus on key writing skills