How Music Can Help Your Kids Study
Music can be a great study aid for your child, but depending on the kind of music, it can also be a great distraction. It’s common for parents and children to disagree on which music is more effective during study time and which songs do more harm than good. In this article, we’ll explain how music affects the brain and how to help your children choose the best music to help them concentrate and be productive while studying.
The Science of Music and the Brain
Music’s effect on the brain is quite complex, and various studies link to various benefits. Listening to music has been said to boost the immune system, ease anxiety, improve cognitive development, and more. Perhaps the most useful benefit to students is music’s ability to improve memory and focus during a study session. However, not just any music will do—especially if the study material is dull.
Scientific research suggests listening to an even blend of chaos and predictability for the best response in the brain. A tune too monotonous can cause us to feel drowsy or bored, but a beat with too much unpredictability is likely to agitate and distract us. Believe it or not, most modern pop songs offer a perfect musical balance for work or pleasure!
Another study about the science of music and body movement (published by PLOS ONE) also emphasizes the importance of “rhythmic complexity in the form of syncopation,” in other words, disturbances in an otherwise steady rhythm resulting in a melody that is somewhat offbeat.
Conscious Attention vs. Unconscious Attention
There are plenty of parents who would prefer that their children study in silence, arguing that music is a noisy distraction; however, the right kind of music can actually act as an insulator that keeps external distractions from penetrating your student’s focus. How? By giving the brain’s unconscious attention system something to focus on.
You see, our attention systems are comprised of two different parts, referred to separately as the dorsal and ventral attention systems—otherwise known as our conscious and unconscious attention. Both parts work together simultaneously but do very different things.
Our conscious attention directs our focus to the primary task at hand—which, for your student, is studying. While our conscious attention is hard at work, our unconscious attention is doing its job of detecting peripheral sights, sounds, and other distractions: a creak in the floorboards, a siren in the distance, a smell coming from the kitchen. Unfortunately, even though your student’s ventral attention system is properly doing its job, it’s causing disruption in his or her focus.
Music provides the unconscious attention with something to listen to and focus on. It drowns out other distractions, keeps the ventral attention system busy, and allows your child to study without so many distractions.
The Best Study Music
Music has a very powerful influence on our brains, bodies, and emotions. Because of this, it’s important to choose the right music if you want it to play a helpful role in your child’s study blocks. Use these tips to choose effective study music:
Music Without Lyrics
Music with lyrics has proven to be quite distracting—especially if the listener has resonated deeply with the lyrics and memorized every word. Use instrumental music or soundtracks to your favorite movies, or your child’s favorite video games to provide helpful background music.
A Moderate Volume
Playing your child’s study music too loud will be more of a distraction than an aid. Turn the music down to a moderate volume, but leave it loud enough to be heard. Study music should serve as background music.
If your kid is struggling with a poor attitude during his or her study hour, lighten the mood by playing some funky jams by Bruno Mars or a similar artist. An article by Professor Morten Kringelbach from the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry explains the uplifting power of funk music, thanks to its optimal levels of unexpected accents and unpredictable stresses.
Ambient music from artists like Tim Hecker focuses less on the structure of a rhythm and more on tone and atmosphere. It’s most often a combination of relaxing rhythms paired with unexpected sounds and effects. This music genre is the perfect combination of smooth predictability and discordant notes to keep your kids’ unconscious attention preoccupied.
Some studies suggest that music will better serve your study purposes if you’re listening to music that you enjoy. Instead of making your children study to the tune of your favorite classical track, let them listen to the songs that they actually like!
Music can be a great study aid for your kids, whether they’re in elementary school or high school. With a thoughtfully crafted playlist, you can help improve study time for your children. Assemble an even mix of upbeat tunes, instrumental music, and all-time favorite songs for a unique and effective study playlist.