Summer’s over… It’s back to school and back to the routine of getting up bright and early in the morning, learning all day, followed by some downtime, homework and then sleep. At least that’s how it’s supposed to go, right? 

Many kids are less than focused when they’re doing their homework and are staying up late at night online. 

Today’s Tween/Teen Online: Molly’s Story

Today’s tween/teen, let’s call her “Molly.” comes home from school, dumps her backpack,  gets a snack, takes a break and then it’s time for homework.  She goes to her room and closes the door. Molly is doing her homework – sort of. She’s started the essay that’s due tomorrow but she’s also chatting on Facebook and watching a Britney Spears YouTube video. She’s yet to study for her history quiz tomorrow. 

Later that night when Molly’s parents think she’s asleep, Molly’s busy checking Facebook and ends up staying up much later than she should.  She wakes up bleary eyed, stumbles out of bed, goes to school and falls asleep in math class. Sound familiar?

Learning A Life Skill

Parents need to help their kids to learn to focus, get their homework done and then have time for other online activities. They need to make sure their kids are getting adequate sleep at night to function well the next day These are life skills that kids need to learn today, because choosing to get their work completed over fooling around and getting enough sleep will be decisions they make every day, now, when they go to college and when they get a job.

For most teens it is tremendously difficult to ignore a text or resist checking Facebook while doing homework, even if they say they can tune those distractions out. After all it might be a REALLY IMPORTANT text. “Resisting the urge to check social networking sites for updates is more difficult than turning down a drink or the desire for a cigarette,” according to a study from the University of Chicago.

Multitasking When Doing Homework

Many kids think they can do homework and ten other things at once.  The reality is they can’t. Dr. Sherry Turkel says, “The brain actually rewards kids for multitasking by releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine, even though performance on every task gets worse and worse. Kids don’t know that they are doing worse because they feel better when they multitask.”  

Kids Need Sleep to Learn

Studies have shown a direct correlation between the amount of sleep that kids get and their performance in school. Dr. Paul Howard-Jones warns that sleep deprivation can really impact our kids’ learning as sleep allows the brain to consolidate information that’s been received and encoded during the day in school. Learning actually takes place while kids sleep. When kids don’t get adequate sleep their ability to learn is reduced and they’re likely to fall asleep in class, too.

Four Steps Parents Can Take

Now that school is back in session, parents need  to become actively involved in the management of internet usage by setting some guidelines.

  • During homework time, have your child park his/her cellphone.
  • Teach your child that multitasking doesn’t work, that with each task added performance gets worse even though they feel better.  Teach your child that there is a time to focus on work and a time to fool around.
  • If your child uses the computer to do homework, check in live with a computer monitoring tool like ScreenRetriever to make sure he/she is doing their homework. Your child will think twice about fooling around when doing homework when he knows you’re checking.

Park cellphones and computers in the parent’s bedroom at night.

Victoria Kempf, R.N., is a passionate internet safety expert, and co-founder and COO of ScreenRetriever (, a children’s internet safety monitoring product that gives parents complete visibility of all of their children’s computer activity.