Homework & Schoolwork

Online Homework - The Biggest Challenge

Delaney Ruston, MD
September 17, 2019

When your child’s homework assignment is online it can be an immense challenge for them to stay on task.

They can be experiencing a host of uncomfortable feelings related to their school work, such as a sense of “why do I need to learn this anyway,” or frustration of an overly challenging problem set or the stress of having to write about a topic they are not interested in, or they are just plain bored.

And then the new reality that just one click away is a treasure trove of funny videos, a favorite YouTube on how to do their hair for school tomorrow, their favorite video gamer taking on a wickedly high level… it’s a recipe for distraction.

The good news is that millions of teens are in this situation and still manage to get their work done. But it is not easy for most of them. And the reality is that many other youths often cannot stay on task.

I want to lay out some ideas that have worked for families in this regard. Hopefully, you will find a tip or two that can help in your home.

  1. Be sympathetic. Tell them that you understand it is hard to stay on task. As always, having conversations about this topic with your kids over the course of years is key.
  2. Share your workspace with your kids, even if it is cramped (maybe even better!). My daughter Tessa is now a senior in high school, and she does not have a desk in her bedroom — hasn’t for years actually. Instead, we have a common office where we hang out and do work together. I see firsthand when she is staying on task. Meanwhile, now and then I ask what she is working on, and she will tell me and sometimes it is watching a video — and she will tell me how she got other things done and plans to go back but needed a break. I can tell that my occasional questions do provide a bit of accountability so that she does not go too long down the YouTube hole or other online siphons.
  3. “Name more of what you want to get” is what the brilliant Tammy Fisher Huson says in our new film Screenagers: NEXT Chapter. Fisher Huson is the author of “There Is Always Something Going Right,” and she is a wealth of knowledge about raising emotionally intelligent youth. So from her teachings, I have started doing two key things with my teens: a) Validating the challenges they face to stay on task, and b) Pointing out times that they do stay focused on challenging work. As Tammy has taught me, I hold up a mirror to my kids and show the proof of their succeeding. It is not empty praise but reality-based.
  4. Work with your kid regarding certain homework assignments that can be printed out and worked on with all tech out of the room. Doing this can help youth who are really challenged with certain assignments.
  5. Build-in positive incentives. Maybe after 20 minutes of staying on task, you do something fun for a few minutes together, or they get some tech time.
  6. Encourage your kids to talk with their teachers. Usually, kids are themselves frustrated by how long homework is taking them due to task shifting. Going to the teacher and admitting that this is a challenge is a wonderful chance for your child to practice self-advocacy. Incidentally, these themes figure prominently in Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER: Uncovering Skills for Stress Resilience.
  7. A KEY THING is to have tech time be over at a set time during the week. So if your 9th grader knows that they can’t have their device to do homework past a given time (perhaps around 9 or 10 p.m), it is up to them to finish their work by that time. I know it is hard to do anything that entails your child *not* finishing their homework, but a few missed deadlines can really change things. Your kids will procrastinate less when they know, “In our home, I only have tech until 10 and it is firm.”
  8. Be ready for your own work. Implementing any of these techniques takes energy and it also means for many of us parents, learning to not be derailed by a host of emotions, such as guilt, that can arise when enforcing a rule.

Teaching kids to focus in the face of online distractions will definitely pay off as things start working better AND your kid gets the extra benefit of more sleep.

Here are a few questions to start a conversation about staying on task with homework:

  1. Where are your favorite places to do homework? Is it possible to share spaces together more often?
  2. How much of your homework has to be done on a computer? Parents can answer the same question for their own work.
  3. What types of breaks from studying really rejuvenate you?
  4. What is a reasonable amount of time to focus just on homework before a break? Before a tech break? How long should the tech break be?

*We would love for you to share this TTT any way that works for you, whether that’s on social media or via a newsletter. If you want to send it out in your newsletter we just ask that you credit us and link to our website, and let us know at lisa@screenagersmovie.com.

HOST A SCREENING to help spark change.
FIND EVENT LISTINGS

Do you organize professional development in schools? We now have a 6-hour, 3-part training module. Request more information here Professional Development.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on Facebook, Twitter and leave comments below.

Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Order Here
Find A screening Button

Find a Screening - Find a community screening close to you or watch our movies on demand

Learn More
Screenagers Podcast

Screenagers Podcast - Join Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD for the latest Podcast

Learn More
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Find A screening Button

Find a Screening - Find a community screening close to you or watch our movies on demand

Learn More
Screenagers Podcast

Screenagers Podcast - Join Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD for the latest Podcast

Learn More
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Order Here
Find A screening Button

Find a Screening - Find a community screening close to you or watch our movies on demand

Learn More
Screenagers Podcast

Screenagers Podcast - Join Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD for the latest Podcast

Learn More
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Find A screening Button

Find a Screening - Find a community screening close to you or watch our movies on demand

Learn More
Screenagers Podcast

Screenagers Podcast - Join Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD for the latest Podcast

Learn More
Book page button

Available now - Parenting in the Screen Age, from Screenagers filmmaker Delaney Ruston MD

Learn More
Host a Screening Button

Community Screenings - Learn more about hosting your own Screenagers community screening event!

Learn More
Homework & Schoolwork

Online Homework - The Biggest Challenge

Delaney Ruston, MD
September 17, 2019

When your child’s homework assignment is online it can be an immense challenge for them to stay on task.

They can be experiencing a host of uncomfortable feelings related to their school work, such as a sense of “why do I need to learn this anyway,” or frustration of an overly challenging problem set or the stress of having to write about a topic they are not interested in, or they are just plain bored.

And then the new reality that just one click away is a treasure trove of funny videos, a favorite YouTube on how to do their hair for school tomorrow, their favorite video gamer taking on a wickedly high level… it’s a recipe for distraction.

The good news is that millions of teens are in this situation and still manage to get their work done. But it is not easy for most of them. And the reality is that many other youths often cannot stay on task.

I want to lay out some ideas that have worked for families in this regard. Hopefully, you will find a tip or two that can help in your home.

  1. Be sympathetic. Tell them that you understand it is hard to stay on task. As always, having conversations about this topic with your kids over the course of years is key.
  2. Share your workspace with your kids, even if it is cramped (maybe even better!). My daughter Tessa is now a senior in high school, and she does not have a desk in her bedroom — hasn’t for years actually. Instead, we have a common office where we hang out and do work together. I see firsthand when she is staying on task. Meanwhile, now and then I ask what she is working on, and she will tell me and sometimes it is watching a video — and she will tell me how she got other things done and plans to go back but needed a break. I can tell that my occasional questions do provide a bit of accountability so that she does not go too long down the YouTube hole or other online siphons.
  3. “Name more of what you want to get” is what the brilliant Tammy Fisher Huson says in our new film Screenagers: NEXT Chapter. Fisher Huson is the author of “There Is Always Something Going Right,” and she is a wealth of knowledge about raising emotionally intelligent youth. So from her teachings, I have started doing two key things with my teens: a) Validating the challenges they face to stay on task, and b) Pointing out times that they do stay focused on challenging work. As Tammy has taught me, I hold up a mirror to my kids and show the proof of their succeeding. It is not empty praise but reality-based.
  4. Work with your kid regarding certain homework assignments that can be printed out and worked on with all tech out of the room. Doing this can help youth who are really challenged with certain assignments.
  5. Build-in positive incentives. Maybe after 20 minutes of staying on task, you do something fun for a few minutes together, or they get some tech time.
  6. Encourage your kids to talk with their teachers. Usually, kids are themselves frustrated by how long homework is taking them due to task shifting. Going to the teacher and admitting that this is a challenge is a wonderful chance for your child to practice self-advocacy. Incidentally, these themes figure prominently in Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER: Uncovering Skills for Stress Resilience.
  7. A KEY THING is to have tech time be over at a set time during the week. So if your 9th grader knows that they can’t have their device to do homework past a given time (perhaps around 9 or 10 p.m), it is up to them to finish their work by that time. I know it is hard to do anything that entails your child *not* finishing their homework, but a few missed deadlines can really change things. Your kids will procrastinate less when they know, “In our home, I only have tech until 10 and it is firm.”
  8. Be ready for your own work. Implementing any of these techniques takes energy and it also means for many of us parents, learning to not be derailed by a host of emotions, such as guilt, that can arise when enforcing a rule.

Teaching kids to focus in the face of online distractions will definitely pay off as things start working better AND your kid gets the extra benefit of more sleep.

Here are a few questions to start a conversation about staying on task with homework:

  1. Where are your favorite places to do homework? Is it possible to share spaces together more often?
  2. How much of your homework has to be done on a computer? Parents can answer the same question for their own work.
  3. What types of breaks from studying really rejuvenate you?
  4. What is a reasonable amount of time to focus just on homework before a break? Before a tech break? How long should the tech break be?

*We would love for you to share this TTT any way that works for you, whether that’s on social media or via a newsletter. If you want to send it out in your newsletter we just ask that you credit us and link to our website, and let us know at lisa@screenagersmovie.com.

HOST A SCREENING to help spark change.
FIND EVENT LISTINGS

Do you organize professional development in schools? We now have a 6-hour, 3-part training module. Request more information here Professional Development.

Stay in touch with the Screenagers community on Facebook, Twitter and leave comments below.

More Like This

What Do You Appreciate About School Communication?
March 16, 2021
Homework & Schoolwork

What Do You Appreciate About School Communication?

A big shift has happened, a reset is remerging, and how we communicate as schools and families is critical. What types of committees will we make? How should such emails even be changed?

READ MORE >
School Worries? Ideas To Help
March 8, 2021
Homework & Schoolwork

School Worries? Ideas To Help

I have been thinking a lot about ways we can supplement our children’s learning this spring. Today I have ideas for 3 “Home Mini-Courses.”

READ MORE >
School Online, Multitasking, and More
October 27, 2020
Homework & Schoolwork

School Online, Multitasking, and More

Staying on task and paying attention in a classroom online when pulled by many tabs and often phones nearby is intensely challenging. Today I share some solutions that kids have shared when it comes to studying online.

READ MORE >

parenting in the screen age

for more like this, DR. DELANEY RUSTON'S NEW BOOK, PARENTING IN THE SCREEN AGE, IS THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE FOR TODAY’S PARENTS. WITH INSIGHTS ON SCREEN TIME FROM RESEARCHERS, INPUT FROM KIDS & TEENS, THIS BOOK IS PACKED WITH SOLUTIONS FOR HOW TO START AND SUSTAIN PRODUCTIVE FAMILY TALKS ABOUT TECHNOLOGY AND IT’S IMPACT ON OUR MENTAL WELLBEING.  

ORDER HERE
Parenting in the Screen Age book cover