Cell phones and homework? The struggles of a parent of a teen

A few days ago, I walked into the room to see my son at his desk staring at his cell phone.  I yelled at him to put it down and get his homework done. But,  he insisted he was doing his homework. “Mom, I’m looking up my assignment,” he told me.

Lately, I’ve noticed a big difference in the way my youngest child Garret, a high school freshman, uses his phone and the way his older siblings used their phones .  Garret uses his phone for everything he needs to do his homework. He uses it to look up word definitions, check his grades, calculate math problems and research science terms. Of course, in between, he’s also liking pictures on Instagram and pulling up videos on Vine.

As a parent, I’m struggling with maintaining control over how much connectivity is too much, particularly when my teen is a digital native who considers a paperback dictionary “ridiculous” and “unnecessary”.

A big problem is that homework in my house seems to drag on for hours and I find myself nagging Garret to hurry up so he can get to sports practice on time or get to bed at a decent hour.  While I realize that teachers pile on the homework, I’m sure that some of the reason it drags on for hours is because of the distraction of electronics.

In a new study by Common Sense Media, half of the teenagers said they watch TV or use social media either “a lot” or “sometimes” while doing homework, and 76 percent said they listen to music while working.  Half of the teens also said that listening to music actually helps their work, while only 6 percent said they thought it hurt.

“As a parent and educator, there’s clearly more work to be done around the issue of multi-tasking,” said James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, an organization that monitors youthful media use and gives recommendations to parents told NBC News. “Nearly two-thirds of teens today tell us they don’t think watching TV or texting while doing homework makes any difference to their ability to study and learn, even though there’s more and more research to the contrary.”

My friend Stefani is just as frustrated as I am. She took her son’s cell phone away from him a few days ago. She explained to me that he’s a kid who is easily distracted and whose grades have been slipping. “I blame that darn phone,” she said.

The phone is just one culprit in our teens’ addiction to devices.  New research has found that teens are spending a reported nine hours a day on media consumption, with tweens trailing not too far behind, dedicating an estimated six hours to their smartphones or tablets.

Steyer says that that statistic  is sad because it “shows you that kids spend more time with media and technology than they do with their parents, time in school or any other thing.”

While it is sad, it also is reality.

Until now, I’ve been okay with letting my son use his phone while doing homework. He is doing well in school. But this survey has me wondering if I am making a mistake. Maybe I should make Garret put his phone in the desk drawer until his homework is finished. What do you think…should cell phones be part of the homework routine —  or banned until it’s completed?

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3 Comments

  1. Toni November 5, 2015 at 11:20 am

    I struggle with this one daily. I do allow devices if they have notes or information that is related to the homework. I will also designate device charging time during that time (and all devices are charging in another part of the house). More often than not, they want their devices charged, and the need to have them disappears during homework time.

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  2. momof2teenboys November 9, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    I decided to blog browse to see if there is anybody blogging on this subject and your’s was the first I looked at! Homework and phones, or really just phones in general seems to be the bane of my existence lately. They need their devices to do their homework, but we all know how easily teens are distracted!!! Look up one word, and a snap chat pops up and for the next hour they are on that until they remember they were using it to do homework!! So frustrating!! I wish I had a solution, but I don’t. My younger son’s school has an iPad program so they are on that to do everything. Makes for an interesting school day getting texts and snapchats all day. I try to make Sundays “screen free” and that is our saving grace. It is heaven!!! Wish I had a solution. It is uncharted territory for so many of us!! Good luck all!!

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  3. herquilarh December 9, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Well to answer your question,i think the type of assignment determines if cell phones should be used during homework or not. For instance,if your child is given an assignment and needs to look up the topic over the internet,he will definitely need to use his cell phone while doing homework,not allowing him to use his cell phone in this particular instance will amount to hindering his homework. However,if the assignment can be done without using the internet,i would advise you take the phone till he finishes.

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