I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve walked past my grandson’s computer and seen a quick flash of Roblox. It’s a quick flash because an adult walking past reminds him to hide the evidence and get back to distance learning. He even skipped math class one day in lieu of playing Roblox with a classmate during class time. This is totally not cool. And I’m pretty sure we’re not alone in this struggle.
Most kids are very familiar with digital media but aren’t used to self-regulating their use. When they’re in a real classroom they don’t have access to video games, so the temptation isn’t there. And if they do get distracted, the teacher is there to help them refocus, with a hand on the shoulder or gentle reminder. But when they’re at home learning on a computer, the temptation is very real and teachers can’t see or do much to get them back on track.
So what can we do? Remember, our younger students lack the brain maturity to manage blocking out distractions. While, neurodivergent kids, such as kids with ADHD, struggle with the executive function required to stay on task amid distractions. This skill requires time and practice to develop. And, let’s be real, the internet is a barrage of distractions and limiting the access during online learning can be almost impossible. For example, they need access to YouTube for watching learning videos, but YouTube is also a rabbit hole of other entertainment. So how do you keep your kids on task and not getting distracted?
- Talk about accountability. Discuss why it’s so important to remain engaged and dedicated, even if their classes look a little non-traditional right now. They’re not home to take a break — they’re still responsible for paying attention in class and completing all their coursework.
- Distraction or defiance? For our right brain and ADHD kids, the tech use is about being easily distracted, especially if they’re not understanding or connected to what they’re learning in class. In some cases, kids may go online to intentionally avoid class work. Both need consequences, but consider first what’s motivating them.
- Act like a teacher. Teachers are physically present to monitor behavior and check in with students to see if they understand assignments. If your student is working in a nearby room, walk past them a few times a day, like a teacher would walk around classroom. Your presence and support will let them know your watching, and help your student with self-motivation, self-regulation, task persistence, and other executive functions.
- Block access to distracting websites. Third-party extensions, such as StayFocused and Block Site on Google Chrome, allow you to create a blacklist of distracting websites and then easily activate when it’s time to study. For example, if your child mindlessly begins to type the URL for his favorite video game or YouTube channel, he’ll be greeted with a sad puppy reminding him that he’s still in the middle of school. Then, when he’s finished his online schoolwork for the day, simply turn off the blacklist until school starts again.
- Turn off unnecessary notifications. While notifications for class and zoom meeting changes can be helpful for keeping your kids where they need to be at the right time, for our easily distracted kids, every ding from a notification is also a potential for losing focus. Leave the class time change notifications on but turn everything else off, especially for video games, video sites and social media.
- Establish reward systems for remaining focused. When students are working, they only work. When the school day and homework is complete, it’s time for play and reward. For example, after school work is complete, kids can have 30 minutes to play video games. To help with the transition into play mode, have them close down ‘school’ for the day and do something active for 30 minutes before they get back on computer for play.
Distance learning has been rough on all of us, especially our kids. So no matter the struggles, pat your kids and yourself on the back. I hope there are some ideas here to help lessen the temptation to play during class. And I’d love to hear what’s working at your house!! Please do tell!