Back in 2015, a survey conducted by Microsoft showed that people in this digital age have a shrinking attention span. In fact, sources like Time magazine claim we have the attention span of a goldfish. What a horrible thought! But it turns out that assertion may be just a fish story. The statistics on which this statement was based were too vague to be trusted. Our reputation for being more attentive than goldfish appears to be, for the moment, safe.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the end of it. We may not have a goldfish attention span, but there’s no denying our focus has been compromised thanks to the constant stimulation offered by modern technology.
As I would review past interactions with my kids, I realized that I hardly ever saw them look up from their phones to simply savor a moment of quiet. And for myself, I was just as bad.
The average American spends five hours a day on their mobile devices, according to a 2017 study reported in Techcrunch.com. It has been found that teens spend even more time online, many showing signs of an addiction to the internet.
If I want to help my kids to improve, increase their attention span, and their ability to focus, I have to push them to pay attention more than a handful of seconds. This starts with the example my wife and I set.
Here are some goals we set as a couple to be better examples for our kids:
- Get the kids involved in something engaging. Summertime is a great opportunity to get out and explore the city. We aim to try a local museum and the zoo, go swimming at the local community pool, take picnics in our neighborhood park. There are a number of sites like MacaroniKid.com that have helped us find local places, events and activities perfect for family fun. If you’re more of a home-body, having picnics or campouts in the backyard, baking or cooking together, or family board game tournaments are just a few ideas to get the whole family involved in something fun.
- Start reading as a family. Did you know the library has reading lists by age or grade, as well as by categories? Some branches even hold summer reading competitions. Our whole family has joined and begun to experience losing ourselves in a good book each month. It has gotten our kids away from their screens while growing their brains, vocabularies and imaginations. As legendary imagineer Walt Disney once said, “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”
- Make sure we’re giving them brain food. We took a good hard look at our family diet. Sometimes junk food is just easier and my reasons for turning to fast food and Lunchables are perfectly justifiable. But our kids’ focus won’t benefit from excess sugar, fat and salt. In fact, it only makes them more sluggish! We make simple changes like replacing milkshakes with green smoothies, and finding other ways to make healthier substitutions in our meal prepping. We involve our kids in the process by shopping together for wholesome ingredients. Healthy food is brain food!
- Establish screen-free times throughout the day. We set aside time during the day where phones, tablets, computers and other screens are off-limits. It’s important for our minds to take a break from the constant stimulation we are bombarded on a daily basis. Meal times have proven to be a great option as it has given our family meaningful time to engage. So is the hour or so before bedtime, which gives the brain a period where it can switch off to help with sleep.
Follow these steps and you are sure to see improvements in your children’s attention spans. You may even find yourself being able to focus for longer lengths of time too!
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McSpadden, K. (2015, May 14). Science: You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish. Retrieved from http://time.com/3858309/attention-spans-goldfish/
Perez, S. (2017, March 03). U.S. consumers now spend 5 hours per day on mobile devices. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/03/u-s-consumers-now-spend-5-hours-per-day-on-mobile-devices/
Taking Breaks Found to Improve Attention. (2015, October 06). Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/09/taking-breaks-found-to-improve-attention/23329.html
TEEN INTERNET ADDICTION INFOGRAPHIC. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.liahonaacademy.com/teen-internet-addiction-infographic-info.html
How Technology Affects The Way Our Brain Works. (2018, May 28). Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-technology-affects-the-way-our-brain-works/