Should your teen study with music?

To iPod or not to iPod: That is the question.

Music has been a part of your teen’s life from the first time you popped in that Baby Mozart DVD. Before long, they were probably going through a Wiggles phase, then heading into KidzBop, and now they’re probably plugged into a steady diet of Jay (Z) or Tay (lor Swift).

study with musicBut should your child study with music? We’ve all heard the refrain from teens that they study better with music. And most of us have heard of the “Mozart effect,” studies which indicated that listening to Mozart may provide short-term improvement performance of certain tasks.

But the concept of Macklemore rapping over your teen’s AP literature reading seems counterintuitive, does it not? Let’s take a look:

What the research says:

  • A study conducted by the New Jersey Institute of Technology found that students who studied with music playing had lower average scores on a typing test than those who didn’t. It found that overall, music significantly decreased productivity, due to its distracting influence. But the institute also found that the scores varied depending on whether the student routinely played music while studying and by the type of music played.
  • Another study found no interference between instrumental music and reading comprehension, but did note that comprehension suffered when lyrics were added.
  • And a third study looked into the effect of different types of music on a student’s concentration – testing through absolute quiet, with music they liked or with music they didn’t like playing in the background. Although the results showed no significant difference in the test scores of students who listened to music they liked compared to students who heard music they didn’t like, those who studied in silence scored significantly higher than students in both other groups.

A case-by-case basis:

There are a number of variables, of course. For example:

  • Instrumental or classical music might help your child focus on the task at hand and drown out other distractions, especially if it soothes them.
  • Even music with lyrics might not be too problematic if you are working on math, which uses a different part of the brain than languages. It depends on whether your teen is using it as background, or is actively listening and singing along.
  • Music with lyrics is almost certain to be distracting if you are reading, writing or studying a foreign language.

But silence is probably golden:

Many students don their headphones as a way to drown out other distractions. But, chances are good that the music itself is causing its own distraction. The bottom line is that as much as teens feel that they are adept at multi-tasking, we just don’t focus as well on two things as on one.

Finding a quiet, relaxed place for your child to study is almost surely a better bet than trying to use music as a concentration tool.

What about your teens? Do they seem to study better with music? We’d love to hear how you handle it on our Facebook page.


3 Responses to Should your teen study with music?

  1. Brenda June 19, 2017 at 10:24 PM #

    I think music does help a student study as long as it is music with no lyrics. I know for myself the lyrics become distracting. I think if the music is coming from a setup with speakers across the room and not earbuds, the music would be more beneficial because they are not tempted to play with the display on their phones.

  2. Iron Heart Pinkney September 16, 2015 at 4:55 PM #

    My daughters think they study better with music but they are wrong. They both take much longer to finish when they have the music on; plus the time it takes to change when a song they don’t like comes on. There is a lot of wasted time associated with the music.

  3. Jacob Bobair February 9, 2015 at 4:15 AM #

    I disagree to these studies. My son listens to dubstep(don’t know why) during his state tests and though he’s an average C student(he says he can’t take notes, which I’ve told him he needs to take notes cause they’re a part of his grade) he is passing fairly well solely by his tests scores.(He was recently moved to the 8th grade advanced science class for having the third highest test scores.)

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