Do You Allow Your Child to Listen to Music While Doing Homework?

Updated on January 26, 2012
L.P. asks from Chino Hills, CA
29 answers

There's an ongoing debate in my house about allowing children to listen to music while doing homework. My 8yr old step-daughter (3rd grade) keeps asking to listen to music on her iPod while doing her homework. My husband and I have held the opinion that music, as like tv, will cause a distraction, and told her "no". However, her Mom allows her to listen to music when she's at her house so, she believes we are not being fair. (Her Mom is a school teacher allows it so sd uses that as justification as it being ok) After thinking about again I suggested a compromise to my husband. I suggeted that we have her write a proposal stating why she should be allowed to listen to music during homework time and how it will benefit her learning experience. Also, IF we agree to it, music would not be allowed during reading and writing exercises.

What rules do you have for homework time.

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your responses! Like many of you stated, some people are able to concentrate better with music and it can act as white noise. That point was exactly what I was thinking when I suggested a compromise... not to mention that we have music on most of the time in our house anywyays. Also, we have four kids total so I can see that drowning out the other noise in the house could be helpful and, I always listen to music too so, why not her? I think we're going to stick with allowing her to listen to music while doing most of her homework as long as it's not during the reading time. We have the same rule for my 15yr old son and it seems to be working just fine. My husband was most concerned that at her age it might cause more of a distraction. Hopefully SD sees this as a fair compromise. As one of you mentioned, it IS hard for her to have different rules between her homes so this is something that can be consistent for her:) THANKS AGAIN!

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answers from Chicago on

Hmmm, well, you might want to consider that listening to music might actually help to focus her--it does that for me. I ALWAYS listened to music while studying--I think it actually helped with my recall. I did very well in school and became a teacher myself.

I would let her do it as long as the quality of her work doesn't suffer.

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answers from Atlanta on

it depends on the child. When I was in school, if I was in complete silence I would have gone nuts and no work would have gotten done. I frequently did homework while watching tv, listening to music, sitting in a room with others playing/conversing, etc. I guess having to force out the extra noise allowed me to focus and concentrate on work. And my grades were top of the class - literally. My husband can't do anything if something else is going on. His complete inability multitask makes me wonder how he even manages to walk and engage in conversation at the same time. My oldest son is a lot like my husband and the music would be a no, no. The slightest thing pulls his concentration.

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answers from Columbia on

I desperately NEED background noise when I'm studying. The TV, music, white noise...something.

If it were silent, or I only had intermittent distracting noise...I'd never get anything done.

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answers from Honolulu on

Yes, I allow it.
Why not?
For some people, kids and adults alike, they can actually concentrate better with music on.

Even chewing gum... while doing homework, can help some people concentrate more. For example.

Each individual, retains information and concentrates differently, per studying.

The bottom line is: IF listening to music, hampers your child from doing homework and doing it well and results in poor concentration, then sure, don't allow it. BUT if she can still do quality work while listening to music, then what is the harm?

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answers from New York on

We have two different kids with two different needs. One child has ADD and if it's too quiet in the house all the other odd noises distract him. The sounds of the refrigerator, or a truck driving down our street will stop him in his path. so we let him have music on in the backgroud and it's very helpful. On the other hand, my daughter does better when it's quiet. So we encourage her to keep her music off while she does homework. She's 15 and there are times that the music in the background helps her tune out emotional stuff from school and allows her to focus on her school work. So really, it depends!

But keep in mind, for some kids music is not at all distracting - in fact it functions as white noise for them.

Good luck on this. It's tough enough mothering our bio-kids let alone stepkids who have to change homes and parents mid-week. Remember it's tough on her and it's not her choice that she has two different homes and sets or rules to remember and live by. Yikes.

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answers from Albany on

Personally, I work BETTER with a distraction.

All three of my kids have different homework/study habits. The middle would take HOURS to finish his homework if didn't let him watch TV while doing it. The oldest is a figiter (word?), needs a PROP to fool with in order to focus. The youngest likes music.

Even in their HS they're allowed to listen to their ipods while doing class work, as long as they are not creating a distraction to those around them.

All three are outstanding students.

I guess we all work/focus best under different circumstances. Whatever gets the job done, with quality and speed, that's the thing to do!


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answers from Dallas on

My boys haven't asked to have music on, but sometimes I have music on while they are doing homework. I have no problem with them listening to music while doing homework.

I am a high school AP English teacher, and I often have students request that we have music on in the classroom whenever they are working quietly at their desks. I usually allow it. Occassionally I have a student say that it is a distraction, and I will turn the music off, but that is rare. Most students seem to focus better with music on as long as it isn't too loud.

Good luck with your decision.

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answers from Los Angeles on

What a great question. Our first grader doesn't have an Ipod, but if she did I don't think I'd allow her the use of it while doing homework. At least not at this young age. I've heard that classical music can actually aid in learning/memory retention, but I doubt your daughter is listening to that genre :)

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answers from Washington DC on

I tend to disagree with you. I did my dissertation on distraction and there are quite a few studies on how some "distraction" can actually helps people focus. I did a quick search and hear is one link:

I also know of a study about how doodling during conversations or seminars actually helps a person retain information. The basic idea is that the brain can take some advantage by having to force its attention to the main task. the secondary task keeps a person alert and can encourage creativity.

Personnally, I have always been a person who had on music or even the tv to study. As am adult, I always have talk radio on at work. And I am a big doodler during meetings :)

I think it depends on the specific task and on your daughter. At some point she needs to learn what works for her. I only have a 7 year old, and I know that having the tv on during homework would be a big problem. But your question has me thinking if music would help her focus a bit more? Right now she works in silence although in the main part of the house with her sister and I making noise and talking.

I think your approach for her defending her idea is great, but I also suggest you give it a chance and see if it changes her study habits and her retention and her feelings about liking doing her homework. I know she is a child and you want to set her up with good habits. But the same thing doens't work for everyone. Best wishes.

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answers from Seattle on

There is music on at our house 24/7 just about.

I get my motivation to do my work from having music in the back ground.

My kids tend to be a bit calmer with it on.

It helps them focus more on what is in front of them and cuts out distracting back ground noise's like his brothers down the hall way playing.

I have to have it on for that reason also.

Music during reading and writing(especially writing) is something that can come with age on how well you can do it and retain what is coming in. So I agree with you there on this as well.

I have just gotten tot he point I can type an email with my head phones on and NOT type out accidentally some of the lyrics to the song....

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answers from Richmond on

My parents told me that music while doing homework was a distraction.

HOWEVER, to this day, I NEED music in the background to HELP ME CONCENTRATE. It gets me in the zone; I'm not singing along or anything, the beat feeds my 'game face' and helps me focus and get it done!

Whether I'm going through work emails, cleaning, or cooking, music is my motivator.

My girls, 6 and 8, are allowed to listen to music quietly in the background while doing their homework. They know to tell me if it's distracting them, and they're honest about it. Since it's not a reward, they have no problem having it turned off if need be.

I honestly think I would have done heck of a lot better in middle and high school if my parents let me get in the zone and listen to music while doing school work. For me, as mentioned, it's a huge motivator and HELPS me FOCUS.

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answers from Appleton on

Life is noisy. Sometimes the music is like a grey noise and blocks out all the other stuff. But they also need to learn to be able to shut out all the other noises around them and just consentrate. Maybe the ipod will help her to learn to do that.
I worked in retail for years and when the store was really busy I would be ringing up a customer, answering the phone and pointing another customer to the bathrooms or the department they wanted and sometimes training a new co-worker all at the same time. This is not easy but it is a skill that can be learned. If she is listening to music and able to do her homework and maintain her grades, let her do it.

A little story:
A friend of mine is a drummer and one of the smoothest drummers I have ever seen. A few years ago we were talking about how smooth he plays. he told me that when he was a kid he would put on headphones with the song he was learning; then take a book, a magazine and a newspaper and put them on the toms--he would keep the beat, read all three publications and turn pages and not miss a beat. When he finished he could tell you what he read in all three publications and knew the song. It is called compartmentaslizing the brain.

Don't ask me how it works but it does.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My parents would come in and turn my music off, until one day I convinced them that I needed it. They didn't understand, but I explained that my brain needs a distraction for me to absorb the info. My brain moves so fast, that I literally need 10% of it doing something to take me back to a speed I can function. I listened to music especially while I read and wrote. I was an A-B student. If it was too quiet, my brain would wander. My parents finally let up. Here I am 3 degrees later.... Not all of us need the same atmosphere for learning.

Maybe tell her it's fine, but if her grades dip, she's busted and no music.

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answers from Washington DC on

Yes. I used to listen to the radio or stereo and it drove my mom crazy because if it were her, she'd be distracted. For me, it helped motivate me. I used to listen to a lot of music all the time and still really enjoy it in the car or when I'm working on a mundane task. I think you also need to think about how the kid learns - I'm largely an auditory learner, so maybe my music listening was helping my brain when the task was otherwise visual. It was an ongoing argument, even though she was in school to be a teacher. I just wasn't HER.

Our rules are pretty loose (and the sks both hold 4.0 or nearly 4.0 GPAs, including the one in college) - you need to get it done at a reasonable hour (no being up til 2AM), you need to do the task thoroughly, you need to give yourself enough time to complete the project and not make excuses "Oh, I forgot". We will help you somewhat, but I'm not typing your chicken scratch, I'm not sitting with you for 5 hours doing math, etc. When they were younger, we were more "sit at the kitchen table where we can help you" people, but in HS, they need to get it done how they need to get it done. You might consider a trial. If she listens to music for 2 weeks and her grades don't suffer, she keeps it.

YOU can also do some homework and see what's out there equating music and learning. Like And decide if this is something he's putting his foot down on because he CAN or because he SHOULD.

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answers from Washington DC on

Why not? We homeschool and listen to music during the day, sometimes I put on a classical CD, someimes it's contemporary Christian, sometimes soft rock.
I have found music from different cultures that we'lll play from Youtube.

My daughter's high school pipes classical and instrumental music through the hallways all day. Most of the teachers open their doors to let the music stream into their rooms.

Too much quiet can also be distracting. I would allow her to have music on as long as her homework is getting done and she is working to her potential.

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answers from Washington DC on

I am still going to school for my MBA and almost always have to have the TV or music on. I need some background noise. Otherwise I can't focus. My kids don't do well with the TV on, but if I put on some music it helps them. I don't let them do the ear buds because then they will get too loud when they are talking out their problems. But yes, we do music in our house all the time.

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answers from San Antonio on

My own children aren't old enough for homework yet, but I am a teacher, so I will weigh in with a teacher perspective.

When we are finished with our lessons in class, if students have work time (not a quiz, essay, or exam), I do allow them to listen to their I-Pods. These students have grown up in a world much different than how I grew up. They are "plugged in" all of the time. Many do concentrate better if they have background noise, and grades are typically higher on the activities where students are allowed to listen to their music. I questioned it at first, but then I realized that when I do my assignments for grad school, I turn on I Tunes first. When I was doing my undergrad, Dave Matthews was playing through almost every essay I ever wrote. When I write quizzes, tests, or lesson plans now, grade papers (except essays), even when I am reading my textbook, there is usually noise in the background of some sort, music, TV, or the kids playing.

My hubby and I have talked about it for our kids, and both are very musically inclined. They love to dance and sing, and we will probably allow them to listen to music while they work, if they want to, and provided that there isn't a drop in their performance in school.

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answers from Seattle on

I always listend to music while doing homework growing up. I turned out okay, went to college, have a degree in finance and have a good job. Like many below I like music while I am doing a task and it helps me concentrate. I think if her grades start to slip in the reading and writing part then I would say no music. I think you are creating an unnecessary battle and I also think her dad and mom need to communicate better about rules. I don't think having such different rules is fair to her.

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answers from San Francisco on

So far I do allow it, but it's just Kindergarten for us, so the homework is not too serious yet. I plan to take my cue from grades/report cards. If they are good i'll allow it, because personally I have always needed music to do homework. I often need music or tv to go to sleep too.
The best way to describe it is that I'm built to multitask. My brain seems to always do two or more things at once. The trouble comes when the other thing(s) going on in my brain are more interesting than the primary task at hand. It's hard to pay full attention to it and better to fill the rest of my brain with music. Preferably older songs that I am very familiar with. Hope that makes sense....

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answers from Minneapolis on

Personally, I can't work in silence. I just can't. I need some sort of sound at all times. Like 'NY Metro Mom Of Teens' said about her son, every little sound will distract me and drive me insane.

I can understand why you wouldn't allow the TV to be on during homework time, but I really don't think music is a distraction. Also, I love to read. I read every day. I am also a writer. I usually have the TV on in the background while I do both of these things and it doesn't distract me. Music is even less likely to distract me. So I'm not sure why you wouldn't allow music during reading and writing exercises.

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answers from San Francisco on

I do allow my GD to listen to her music while doing homework, but not while reading. I don't think she comprehends as well if she's listening to music. I have had her turn off the music a couple of times just to see and I don't notice that she is done any faster or that when she is listening to music her work is not done as accurately so I don't see a downside for her.

I am, however, exactly the opposite. I do not like listening to music when I work. I prefer quiet. To each their own!



answers from Los Angeles on

My kids are not doing homework yet but I can already tell you that they won't be allowed to do anything else while doing it. Kids nowadays do all sorts of things while doing homework, in other words, multi-tasking. Studies show that multi-tasking impairs the performance of doing each task. You might be able to look this stuff up on the internet and show it to your daughter to help you fortify your position.Listening to music can be a reward for finishing all homework.



answers from New York on

I don't know about an 8 yo, but when I was in college i would be at the library with my iPod on. It helped me to concentrate much better. That way, every noise or person walking by wouldn't distract me.
And even as an adult, when I would take the train on my commute in the morning I would listen to my iPod and read a book.
I think that if she is able to concentrate and is doing well, then its not a problem. If not, then clearly not ok.


answers from Detroit on

I wouldnt, I cannot fully concentrate unless its quiet. But thats just me, and Im assuming my kids are the same way. :)



answers from Los Angeles on

In some cases (like ADHD for example) it is recommended that a child listen to music while doing their homework. Instead of acting as a distraction, it helps focus. Maybe allowing a trial period would be a good idea. If she is capable of getting her work done in a reasonable amount of time and it's correct, then there's no harm, right?



answers from Los Angeles on

I know I am responding late...I just wanted to add that in our home, our daughters do get to listen to music while doing homework, even reading, as long as they choose the music at the beginning of the homework session and then leave it alone. No stopping every time a song ends to search for a new one...none of that. They are totally focused and honestly, homework goes so smoothly when they are listening to music. Glad you came up with a compromise. Take care.



answers from Dallas on

I am pretty sure that there have been some studies done and listening to classical music while studying is very beneficial. I have heard Mozart is the best! I bought a CD of classical music for babies and I think it is all Mozart. My daughter LOVED it! She asked me to turn it on while I was doing preschool with her.

Classical music does something to the brain and not sure exactly what but it somehow boosts brain power.



answers from Washington DC on

This is a very good question. i think it would depend on the student. There are teachers who play music in the classroom while the students are doing certain types of individual work. it works for some students while others do find it to be a distraction, but a distraction people can learn to devleop skills to overcome because in the real world there are distractions at every turn.
if you have a very studious child who makes good grades and has a very strong work ethic and very little problems at school and at home completing tasks on time, I don't see the problem. I would set rules like you said about reading though, and know what kind of music she is listening to while studying, the volume on the ipod is important a test and if it is taking her a long time to complete homework while listening to music or there are a lot of mistakes when you check her homework then that would be justification for her not to use it during homework time.
My oldest son is in the 8th grade and listens to the radio while he does his homework and I don't have a problem with that since I use to do it too.
My youngest son is in the second grade and I would not allow him to because I know his personality & music would serve as more of distraction to him same as TV.
8 years old does seem kind of young to be able to do most homework with music though...especially with it going directly to her ear rather than background noise...good question...



answers from Los Angeles on

I didn't read the other answers, but I have personal experience with this. Our 14 year old son insisted it was easier for him to get his homework done with headphones and music on. We tried it out for a few months. He certainly enjoyed doing his homework more, BUT....he was getting all kinds of answers wrong on his grammar and math homework.
So we said no more music, but you can have headphones on to block out noise from younger siblings and household noise.
He wasn't happy, but he also is doing much better on his homework, even if it takes him longer to get through it.
Sometimes you just have to give it a trial run and see if it really helps them or not. In this case, it was a hindrance, not a help.

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