Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Back to School in a Wired World

Are electronic gadgets turning kids into multitasking pros, or are they just dragging them down?
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

It's no secret that today's children are growing up in a brave new world of computers, cell phones, video games, and iPods. This year, kids will head back to school with more gadgets than ever before.

"Young people today live media-saturated lives, spending an average of nearly 6 1/2 hours a day with media," according to a 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation study, "Generation M: Media In the Lives of 8- to18-Year-Olds."

And that's not all. Gone are the days when a youngster sat too close to the TV, lost in a favorite show. Nowadays, multiple gadgets may compete for a child's scattered attention.

"Kids are instant-messaging while they're watching MTV and taking cell phone calls and playing a computer game with somebody in Japan," says Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, MD, a pediatrician and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on Communications and Media.

"This is a complete experiment in the history of childhood and in the history of the human brain," says Jane M. Healy, PhD, an educational psychologist and author of Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds -- and What We Can Do About It.

Not sure how to help your children cope with all of the distractions and dilemmas that the new technology brings? Here's some expert advice.

Q.My teenager does homework, listens to an iPod, and sends instant messages on the computer -- all at the same time. Could this multitasking hinder learning?

A. Yes, says Russell Poldrack, PhD, a University of California, Los Angeles, associate professor of psychology. "When the goal is learning, it's important to focus," he says. "Learning and memory are pretty badly reduced when you're multitasking."

In one of Poldrack's studies, 14 adults (average age 26) had to learn a new task while simultaneously listening to a series of beeps and counting only the high tones. Poldrack discovered that this type of active multitasking impaired the subjects' ability to learn.

In real life, a teen is engaged in active multitasking if he or she sends text messages or talks on a cell phone while reading a textbook.

What's the result? "You sacrifice ability to focus and general performance," Poldrack says. "One of the most fundamental and widespread findings in psychology is that whenever you have to switch back and forth between doing things, you're not as good at them as if you had focused on them. The brain has some pretty fundamental limits in terms of its ability to do multiple things at once."

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
mother and daughter talking
child brushing his teeth
Sipping hot tea
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
rl with friends
tissue box
Child with adhd