Maggie: How often are you doing your homework, texting with friends and listening to music? Probably a lot. And, sure, you can juggle all of them at once, but how well you are really doing them? In today’s Get Your Geek On, Keith Kocinski chats with two high school girls who are putting teens to the test.
Keith: We are a generation of media multitaskers, using multiple screens, devices or apps all at once. But is that a good thing or a bad thing? It depends on the individual, at least according to research done by Sarayu Caulfield and Alexandra Ulmer, two high school seniors in Portland, Oregon.
Teen researcher: We’re doing all these new things to learn as well through technology, and we really wanted to see how that was affecting our brains, and if we’re really efficient and able to work with these different streams of media coming in.
Keith: They studied over 400 students, looking at how they reacted to juggling different media at the same time, known as media multitasking. Their research, like previous studies, showed most people are best when only focusing on one task at a time. But there was also another surprising finding.
Teen researcher: High media multitaskers actually performed very well while they were actively multitasking. And when they were made to focus, their performance decreased dramatically.
Keith: About 15% of those who were tested actually did better when taking on a variety of activities at the same time. It is a big change from previous research, and that could be because the project focused just on young people, who are known as digital natives.
Teen researcher: Digital immigrants are those who did not grow up with media. And so, media was introduced halfway through their lives or midway through. Whereas digital natives, like adolescents, we have grown up with media and we have seen it almost our entire lives.
Keith: Their findings got them a lot of attention. They were invited to the annual conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics in San Diego to present a summary of their research. They also won an award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
To be viewed as a researcher yourself and not a teen at the moment, how did that make you feel?
Teen researcher: To see the doctors come up to you and be like, ‘Wow! This research is really interesting. Tell me about it.’ And at that point, they’re looking to you for information. And that is something really new and really cool.
Keith: Get this: these teens say they spent nearly 10,000 hours doing research on this project. You wouldn’t think they have much of a life outside this.
Teen researcher: We’re both captains of the junior varsity soccer team here. And so, it’s good to have your time for your research, have our time for our sports, have time for our friends, and time for our schoolwork.
Keith: And how do you know if you are a good multitasker?
Teen researcher: Really be aware of your habits and say, “Oh, wait. Here I am multitasking. Am I getting my homework done? Oh, wait, I haven’t touched it in ten minutes. Maybe I should re-evaluate what I’m doing.
Keith: Keith Kocinski, Channel One News.
Maggie: And to check out the effects of multitasking on the brain, just head to Channelone.com.