Is Multitasking Bad For Teens? Surprisingly, No

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Distracted, scatter-brained, sidetracked. These are adjectives that may come to mind if you see a teen using multiple electronic devices at once — whether they're texting while watching TV or tweeting from their phone while typing on their computer. Two teens decided to challenge this notion and did a study on the effects of teens and mutitasking. They found that it actually can be a good thing.

Two high school seniors from Oregon, Sarayu Caulfield and Alexandra Ulmer, named their study "Capacity Limits of Working Memory: The Impact of Media Multitasking on Cognitive Control in the Adolescent Mind." The girls decided to investigate whether multitasking leads to poor performance.

For their research, they studied a sample of 196 females and 207 males ages 10-19. Participants answered questions about their media habits and took an assessment of how they multitask. Result showed that those who were considered high multitaskers were better at filtering out distractions, but performed worse when focusing on one task. Those who were low multitaskers were bad at filtering out distractions, but performed better on a single task.

Caulfield explains, "In our current multimedia environment, there are people who are multitasking at an exceedingly high rate, and the reality is that they may have become really good at it."

Echoing the same ideas, Ulmer says,

This study suggests that digital natives (adolescents who grew up with exposure to multiple media) with high multiple media use may have developed an enhanced working memory and perform better in distracting environments than when focused on a single task with no distractions. This could have a significant impact on teaching styles and curriculum.

It's definitely an interesting study and ambitious for two teens to take on. This proves that juggling multiple devices isn't so bad after all!

Did you know there’s a health and well-being magazine for teens? Learn more about Choices, and share these stories about technology with your teens, including “RU 2 RUDE 2 B ONLINE?” and “Which one of them is a cyberbully?“!