Here is a question we get from parents all the time – should I let my teenager listen to music while they study?
First of all, what is the greatest concern for parents – that their child will be distracted, will not complete their study tasks or that they are just goofing off during the time they need to be working hard? All of these concerns are valid, but we need to remember that they are naturally informed by the parent’s own experience with using music when they studied or when they are doing a difficult and extended task.
In essence, everyone hears the world differently, and different sound environments have different impacts on different people while doing different tasks. That is a lot of differences. But the point is, there is no one answer to the parent’s questions, it all depends on the cognitive requirements of the task – the student’s personal auditory processing profile and the mood they are or want to be in. Music can make the task easier or a lot harder, it can irritate or enthuse the student, and it can shift their mode from uninterested to motivated or back again.
The interesting thing in this study is that the students were aware of the positive or negative impact that playing music while they were studying had on their productivity.
“Music played while studying was most strongly reported to relax, alleviate boredom and help concentration. Students reported that they mainly played music while studying when they were happy or bored and that their mood was a determinant of their decision. Most turned off the music when they felt that it was interfering with their concentration.”
The participants were students between the ages of 12- 18 from the UK, Greece, Japan, and the USA. After extensive research into the listening habits, choices and related productivity, the researchers came to this conclusion.
“Overall, the findings suggest that parents and educators should not be too concerned when students play music while studying. Students are aware of its effects on performance, use it to support their learning, seem to know instinctively which tasks will be most affected, and generally turn the music off when it is interfering, particularly as they get older. For younger students, parents and educators might take time to explain how music can affect arousal levels which in turn affect concentration and also point out those tasks that are more likely to be affected because of the processing mechanisms that they share with music.”