Dear Straight Talk: I'm a junior and my grades are suffering. My dad says it's because I'm on Facebook and listening to music while I do homework. I don't know what to believe. All of my friends do it, and their parents never say anything. I have a C minus in almost all my classes. Is it really that I'm just distracted when I'm doing my homework? - Kelly
Hannah, 18, Auburn, Calif.: I had a similar problem my junior year, and my grades suffered too. I would text in class even when points were deducted for having your phone out. While doing homework, I listened to music constantly and always chose Facebook, TV, or texting over reviewing my notes before a test. My senior year I knew I needed to change. Now I read and finish all of my homework before texting or using Facebook. I still listen to music though. My grades have improved tremendously and I actually understand what my teachers are talking about. If you pull straight C minuses, you'll have fewer college options and will be shocked at how hard it is.
Catherine, 22, Amherst, Mass.: This has been a big problem for me too. I can get sucked into Facebook and hours disappear. Sometimes I turn off the link on my laptop to remove the temptation. Try avoiding Facebook for a week. Try instrumental music with nothing to sing to. If you don't need your computer to study, put it away. If none of that works, you may need a tutor.
Brie, 18, Ashland, Ore.: I have a much harder time studying if I am texting or on Facebook. I give myself half an hour of Internet before homework, then when it's done, I can spend all the hours I want there.
Maureen, 18, Redding, Calif.: Everyone is different. When I do schoolwork on the computer, I'll have Facebook and other windows opened, and often the TV on, and my grades are great. But people learn differently. Bottom line: find what works for you. Have Firefox block Facebook.
Scot, 23, San Luis Obispo, Calif.: What works for your friends might not work for you. Try studying disconnected for a couple of weeks. When I'm studying I usually listen to music, but I have to change it to something less distracting if I am reading dense material or my comprehension level drops drastically. I try to set up timed goals for myself while studying, like every 25 pages of reading I get a five-minute Facebook break.
Graham, 16, Fair Oaks, Calif.: When I would have Facebook open, what should have been a 30-minute work project would take much longer. Now I've limited my distractions. I stopped using social sites during the week, and I don't listen to music while working.
Nicole, 20, Arcata, Calif.: Your dad is definitely right. When doing homework, do nothing else. No chatting, no looking at your friends' pictures. And no music unless it's mellow with few lyrics. Focus. Your grades will rise.
Dear Kelly: I am beginning to believe that much of the stress your generation complains about - and parents worry about (teen stress being the top concern for most parents) - is not because expectations are significantly higher than previous generations', but because your generation's attention is constantly jack-hammered into worthless bits by endless distractions from texting, e-mailing, and social networking sites. It's harder to do your work and it takes longer. Your father is right, and the panel agrees. While studying, turn that stuff off. Recall the 2005 Hewlett Packard-commissioned study that showed that responding to texts and e-mails while doing other tasks dropped a person's IQ more than twice as much as being stoned on pot. That's how dumb these interruptions make you! Write us back when you start getting A's.
To ask a question or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit straighttalkforteens.com or write to P.O. Box 963 Fair Oaks, CA 95628.