Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Multi Media Multitasking

Today's Wall Street Journal highlights a research analysis by two high school seniors on teens' ability to engage in multi media usage while undertaking various projects.   They presented their findings at a conference in San Diego.  "The findings: Though most teens perform better when focusing on a single task, those who are 'high media multitaskers'—about 15% of the study participants—performed better when working with the distractions of email and music than when focusing on a single activity."  A small percentage can satisfactorily complete their primary tasks while other attention grabbing stimuli is present. 

I, like those teens, grew up doing homework while a TV or music was on in the background.  I, too, found that it filled a void, and I was successful in school.  Did it slow down the time to complete tasks, likely.  Today, I have two teens, one who likes having the TV on while doing homework, the other prefers it off.  Some days the conflict requires the wisdom of Solomon to gain resolution. And whether multitasking or not, homework is completed.

We are constantly evolving creatures and our brains adapt constantly to changing internal and external demands.  The rise of digital media has only extended the supply and perhaps even the demand for multitasking.  Like Darwin's theory, we adapt to handle our new surroundings.   And that process is a constant one.  Teens have been more and more exposed to multiple media outputs, from video to music, Email, Tweets, Likes, etc.  And they are responding.  And while this current research indicates some teens are able to multitask successfully, we also know that depending on the situation it may not always be encouraged.

Listening to music or watching TV and doing homework may slow us down but all tasks can be done fairly well; Texting and driving is one example of multitasking that should never be encouraged.  Regardless of the research, multitasking does cause some distraction and those cases where life is at risk, it should be avoided.