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During my in-take interviews with new families, their child’s distractibility is one of the most common complaints. How do we get them to FOCUS?! Especially when they’re on the internet?

I totally get it, partially because I experience the same distractability in my own life, and I know many adults who do as well. This problem is certainly not isolated to teens.

Recently a friend who is a professional playwright and poet was complaining about her own difficulties focusing. Evidently, when she is momentarily stumped in the midst of her writing, she involuntarily opens a new tab and begins browsing the internet and falling down the rabbit hole of google.

I call this phenomenon the Technology Twitch, and it happens to me all the time. The second my brain bumps up against difficulty, my hand clicks onto facebook before I’m even conscious of what I’m done. That’s why I call it a “twitch”; it seems uncontrollable.

When she wants to circumvent the Twitch, my poet/playwright friend swears by the new software called Freedom. It’s easy-to-use interface allows the user to shut down the internet for a specified amount of time.

I tried it the other day, and found it an invaluable tool! I needed to read my friend’s dissertation, and every time I read a complex idea that required me to stop and think, I felt the “twitch” happen in my body. However, the internet was no where in sight (and my iphone was conveniently hidden in the next room)! So I simply noted the feeling of discomfort, and then moved my attention back to the difficult passage. What a relief!

I highly recommend Freedom to distractable students and parents. A word of caution, though, when it comes to doing homework: blocking the internet will require that you plan out your homework regimen before turning Freedom on. So many assignments these days require the internet. Review all your homework assignments for the night, make a list of the ones that require the internet, and then plan out what you are going to do first, second, third, etc.

If Freedom seems too extreme, check out this list of other software designed to diminish distractions.

If you try Freedom (or any of the others on the list), let me know how it works for you! Your reflections will help me recommend various tools to my academic coaching clients.