Media and Media Multitasking

Submitted 4 months ago
Created by
Brad Choyt
Here’s an alarming statistic: according to the American Association of Pediatricians (AAP), youth in our country spend more time using media than any other waking activity: an average of seven and a half hours per day—that’s over fifty-two hours per week! And equally concerning, about fifteen of those hours are spent alternating between various media streams simultaneously--what is referred to as media multitasking (MMT).

As this is a relatively new phenomenon (smartphones became common only in the last seven to eight years), researchers do not know the full extent of the impact of high amounts of media use or MMT. Given that children’s brains are developing quickly while they form these media habits, more studies are needed. Educators, pediatricians, and other professionals who work with children need to understand the neurocognitive effects and armed with that knowledge, develop  guidelines for healthy media usage.

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But even without further studies, colleagues who work in schools have a great deal of anecdotal evidence that multitasking disrupts concurrent learning. Furthermore, early studies now show a correlation between high MMT rates and poorer working memory, increased impulsivity, social anxiety, and depression. 

These reasons alone are enough to make parents and educators think carefully about the amount of media usage that should be permitted at home and in schools. And until we understand all of the developmental implications, we should carefully monitor usage and limit children’s exposure to the media to reasonable levels. There is little doubt that children are forming habits that will impact their brain development. And there are already many signs that should give parents, educators, and pediatricians reason to proceed cautiously. 


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