Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 10 Jan 2008

My 14-year-old always texts and listens to music while working. Should I stop her? She does well at school.

Hillary's Advice

But could she do better, if she concentrated more? Almost certainly, yes. However the two things you mention are very different, and it might be sensible to fight a battle over only one of them.

Music, these days, is a constant sound track to many people’s lives, and telling your daughter to do without it could seem to her like telling her that you want her to live without air or water. Instead, persuade her to experiment with what sort of music is most conducive to work. She probably won’t go as far as sampling Mozart or Bach, but she may discover that it is better to move over to something without distracting lyrics.

Texting is something else. To answer a text she will have to switch her brain totally from one thing to another. Her concentration will be broken, and working time wasted. Explain this is why you want her to leave her mobile phone outside the room when she is doing her homework.

She may try to argue that flexible multi-tasking is what modern life demands of people, and that it is sensible for her to hone her skills at this while she is young. But since her behaviour is obviously making you anxious, tell her that, while she may have a point, you are being an old-fashioned parent at this stage and asking her to stick to what you think is best for her work. Once she is out of the house, and away at university, she can work in any way she pleases.