Frequently using several types of media simultaneously (media multitasking) is negatively related to behavioral aspects of executive function in everyday life. A new CcaM study shows that teenagers who often engage in media multitasking have more problems staying focused, inhibiting inappropriate behavior, and switching effectively between tasks.
Media multitasking is a rapidly growing form of media use, particularly among teenagers. There are growing concerns that media multitasking may be related to a variety of cognitive and emotional problems.
This study showed that adolescents who media multitask more frequently have more problems with executive function behaviors, namely staying focused, inhibiting inappropriate behavior, and switching efficiently between several tasks. Problems in these areas may lead to problems in school and to social problems.
In all, 523 Dutch teens in six Dutch schools participated (aged 11 to 15) in this study. They answered questions about their media use and media multitasking as well as about their executive function abilities in every-day life. To measure the functional aspects of executive functions in the brain, they also conducted a series of computer-based tasks. In contrast to their self-reports of executive function, adolescents who media multitask frequently did not perform worse on the computer-based tasks of executive function.
The study was conducted by CcaM researcher Susanne Baumgartner, together with researchers from the VU University Amsterdam: Wouter Weeda, Lisa van der Heijden, and Mariette Huizinga. For this study, the authors received a top-paper award at the annual conference of the media effects division of the German communication association, Vienna, January 2013.
Click here to read the article The Relationship between Media Multitasking and Executive Function in Early Adolescents published in the The Journal of Early Adolescence.