6 Tips to Prevent Digital Distractions During Homework Time
Digital distractions have influenced homework productivity even before the COVID-19 pandemic. This caused more schooling to be digitized and only increased awareness about the effects of technology and study habits. Parents and educators can create nourishing environments and enforce positive practices for engaged learning.
Digital Accessibility Interrupts Workflows
There are pros and cons to every technology. Access to phones, social media, or the internet offers instant gratification, making them enticing alternatives compared to a literature essay.
The digital world also encourages multitasking, making students feel capable of juggling activities instead of focusing. Instantly connecting to social media can disrupt lessons in other ways, such as inciting stress due to FOMO (“fear of missing out”).
Studies also highlight how the ability to concentrate has diminished due to readily available technologies. When observing students studying for 15 minutes, researchers noted that their subjects lost interest after the three-minute mark. Only around 65% of the dedicated study time was used for learning.
So, how can we mitigate digital distractions without students feeling punished or cut off from the world?
1. Put Away Phones, With Notifications and Sound Off
This is one of the most classic distraction-free studying methods. The visual reminder to check Facebook or play a game disappears if the phone is hidden. This can be as simple as putting it in a drawer or a parent hiding it somewhere the student can’t find it.
Notifications and sounds must be turned off for this method to be effective. Even the slightest reminder of the phone’s existence could create a desire to scroll. Putting the phone away could also mean putting away other distracting tech like tablets, or selectively allowing some access so the student doesn’t feel overly disciplined.
2. Ask If There’s an App for That
It sounds counterintuitive, but some apps help curb digital usage. Sometimes relying on pure willpower is not enough.
There are plenty of productivity apps that tackle different facets of the mind. Any of these could immediately benefit focus at study time, including:
- Apps like Forest. These gamify studying sessions by setting Pomodoro-style timers and giving rewards. Avoiding distractions helps your trees grow. This app’s specific bonus is that they contribute to planting more trees in real life, adding an incentive.
- Plugins like Stay Focused. Suppose your student spends a lot of time on distracting websites. In that case, they can be added to a directory that temporarily blocks them.
- Tools like Evernote. Introducing students to note-taking apps could help them organize while scratching a phone-usage itch. This requires self-restraint, but acknowledging the usefulness of apps creates a more accepting tone around digital tools. Suggest making to-do lists and action plans in these apps.
- Programs like Focus Writer. Developers create these programs to create minimalist interfaces, only showing what’s needed to accomplish your task.
Be open to learning as technology develops. Just because social media is a hindrance now doesn’t mean it will be in 10 years. Curriculums may even integrate these “distractions” with how they learn, due to the benefits of providing interactive educational resources. Ultimately, if you notice online distractions affecting students, be curious about digital solutions.
3. Test Different Study Area Setups
Students need to determine the best environment to flourish. A parent may set more formal restrictions like social media agreements. If this is too restrictive, less-severe measures may be more persuasive. Periodic check-ins simulating a teacher walking around the classroom may instill a productive working environment, especially if they are intermittent and casual.
There are other ways to manipulate the environment to see how it helps minimize the desire for digital distractions:
- Play music depending on how much it distracts from work. Instrumental or upbeat music may foster a relaxing atmosphere.
- Create a clean, organized, and well-decorated desk so students don’t feel too overwhelmed to work.
- Make study spaces as separated or as integrated into other rooms as you deem necessary.
- Ensure your child’s bedroom is a calm and relaxing space for reading and homework.
4. Satisfy Other Needs First
Sometimes wishing to rely on phones or social media is actually a different need manifesting itself. The student may be hungry, tired, or feeling down. If these needs are fulfilled, then the student may focus more easily. Play with adjusting the environment or creating new habits to allocate time for everything.
Implementing routines with breaks will give opportunities to cover all your bases. Habits will remind students when to snack or nap. Breaks will make students happy by engaging in play or going online. That way, no need is depleted during a studying session, preoccupying them.
You may choose to remind students to vary their homework schedule. Many teachers use online elements now, and encouraging the use of different study mediums can fulfill the need to be online. Encourage reading and hand-written note-taking for a time. Then, have them go online to watch videos, ask questions via classroom chats, or create team collaboration opportunities through discussion boards. These digital features can feel like breaks, providing technological engagement for learners.
5. Keep Students Inspired by Creating a “Why”
It’s useful for adults to promote an inspirational mindset so students develop an innate drive to focus. Leaning on digital distractions is a habit humans have built as reliance on tech grows. Breaking this habit will be difficult to achieve, so exercising patience is crucial when trying to motivate students.
Point out how studying leads to less homework time in the long run if habits improve. It can lead to well-paying jobs if the student stays on top of their work. Rewards for completing tasks also suffice as goalposts. It can be a reminder they can have their phone when they finish work or something tangible, like a dessert.
Remind your students of their goals and why they’re achieving them. Holding this intention close can motivate students without much conscious thinking.
6. Have an Accountability Coach or Buddy
Involving others will force students to prepare for accountability meetings. Accountability supplies competitive energy that is very motivating for certain types of learners. It can also allow students to connect, reinforcing their skills and ensuring they are on par with peers.
Accountability can take different forms as well. Parents can inspire children by leading by example. They can lock their own phones away while they work, as they complete chores, or just to participate alongside their student. This extra accountability makes the student feel less penalized for having digital distractions removed.
Unplugging for Success
As technology advanced, digital accessibility increased. This helps people stay in touch, access infinite knowledge, and engage with the world. However, this comes at a potential cost to our focus and productivity. Implementing whatever strategies work best for your students will take trial and error, but it’s required for healthy learning habits to develop in the digital age.
About the Author
Ava Roman (she/her) is the Managing Editor of Revivalist, a women’s lifestyle magazine that empowers women to live their most authentic life. When Ava is not writing you’ll find her in a yoga class, advocating for her children or whipping up something delicious in the kitchen!