Teenage Researchers Defend Multitasking with Media

science fairTwo teenagers have presented research to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that shows some teens perform better while juggling studying with listening to music and interacting with social media and smartphones.

The research by Sarayu Caulfield and Alexandra Ulmer was originally carried out as part of a high school science fair at Oregon Episcopal School, Portland, but drew the attention of professional researchers and was presented at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in San Diego.

Analysing more than 400 adolescents, the study found that while the majority of teens performed better when focusing on a single activity, around 15 per cent were high media multitaskers who performed better when working with the distractions of email, social media and music than when focusing on a single task.

Previous studies into similar effects have always concluded that focusing on a single task resulted in better results for almost every participant, but this research is one of the first to examine teens of this generation, which may explain the significant portion who worked better while multitasking.

“This study suggests that digital natives (adolescents who grew up with exposure to multiple media) with high multiple media use may have developed an enhanced working memory and perform better in distracting environments than when focused on a single task with no distractions,” said Ulmer. “This could have a significant impact on teaching styles and curriculum.”