Multitasking: friend or foe?

Check your phone while driving? 56% of parents say they do.

Photo by Marcio Eugenio/Hemera / Getty Images
Photo by Marcio Eugenio/Hemera / Getty Images

Check your device during conversations with your family? 77% of parents say their teens do and 41% of teens say their parents do.

Listen to music while doing homework? Browse online and text friends while watching tv? Check and respond on multiple screens and devices at once?

Multitaskers everywhere, beware! It feels so productive, but is it?

Stanford University researchers have observed that media multitaskers are more easily distracted and are less efficient at “task-switching” and at performing tasks that require cognitive control. 

University of London researchers found that multitasking with electronic media temporarily lowered IQ more than smoking marijuana or missing a night of sleep. Others are investigating whether there are more long-term cognitive disadvantages and whether multitasking can even diminish empathy and emotional development. 

In Screenagers, MIT professor Sherry Turkle and Seattle Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dimitri Christakis  both comment on the myth of multitasking efficiency.

So why do it? Instant gratification? And here’s where we find ourselves back at the self-control conversation—practicing self-control to be able to retrain and regain our ability to concentrate deeply and boost both the quality and quantity of our accomplishments.

This week, try these conversation starters about multitasking but if you only have time for one, try this: "Where and when do you multitask using tech and how does it go generally?"

·      Where and when do you multitask? 

·      What are the tasks that you do simultaneously?

·      How does it feel when you switch from homework to social media or other screen activity and back again? How does it feel afterward?

·      Is multitasking a purposeful habit that helps you, or has taken hold of you?

·      What would happen if you try to avoid multitasking in situations where you usually would?