What will your teen choose? Internet or Homework?

Whether to log into the internet, check their phone, or do their homework is a decision your teen will need to make every day after school. In fact, this is a choice they will consider nearly every moment of every day–even once they’ve seemingly gone to bed.  Because technology is so ubiquitous and addictive, I will bet money that the internet or their snazzy phone will win out over homework every time.


Interviews of students talking about how technology has impacted their school life.


Most teens find it difficult to ignore an incoming text or refrain from checking Facebook while doing homework, even if they say they can tune out technology. But let’s be honest: most adults have a hard time managing internet use even though we apparently have better-developed impulse control. Now that school is back in session, I urge you to become actively involved in the management of the technology distractions available to your teen by setting some guidelines for its use.


Here are some suggestions to consider when creating your own household standards:

1. As much as possible, follow the same guidelines you set for your children’s technology habits. You must model restraint for your teen.

2. Assign limited hours of the day during which technology can be used.

3. Know that multitasking–for example, doing homework while instant messaging–actually decreases productivity and comprehension, despite your teen’s insistence that it does not.

4. Consider a turn-it-off rule for your teen’s phone during homework hours. While your teen may not be texting or calling someone, someone might text them with an urgent social update, or something similar, which will seem much more important than math homework.

5. Consider placing a nighttime phone or mobile device docking station outside of your teen’s room so that they can’t text or talk during hours designated for sleeping. It is very common for teens to stay awake until all hours of the night texting each other back and forth. Yep, that’s probably why your teen looks so tired.

6. Have an all-technology-off curfew to help them curb their compulsion. Many teens have a hard time turning off Facebook or video games and going to bed even though they need at least eight hours of sleep a night to perform well in school. In fact, more is better when it comes to teens and sleep: getting twelve hours of sleep a night has been shown to create observable improvements in their moods and also in their performance at school and in sports.


Researchers are currently investigating why the internet is so addictive and what impact its use has on our minds. What is already clear from the research is that our minds love to be constantly stimulated. The round-the-clock visual, auditory, and emotional stimuli that the internet offers are hard to resist.  However, recent studies have found that constant use of the internet leads to lowered productivity and lowered comprehension. This is likely because our brains require down time from the screen in order to process new information. Perhaps even more concerning? High internet or video game use has been shown to impact sleep patterns and, in teenagers, can lead to depressive and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Follow this link here to read a more.

Remember, even though your teen will resist your guidance, technology can easily become addictive. Let them know that you are setting limitations on their technology use because you love them and know what is best for them, not because they are bad or in trouble.