Reduced Attention Span in Children
A reduced attention span in a person of any age can be detrimental to their ability to carry out even the most basic of tasks however, in children, a reduced attention span can be life-altering as it is in childhood that we learn the skills that establish our ability to function properly throughout life. Our attention span is what enables us to focus on a particular object, matter of preoccupation for any extended length of time. For example, in school, we use our attention spans to keep us focused on the tasks we have been asked to carry out; without our attention span, we would be perpetually unable to complete tasks or focus on anything in particular. Infants are thought of as having selective attention spans which seem to work by “deliberately concentrating on one thing while ignoring something else” (Rider & Sigelman, 2011, 6.3). The attention span normally develops into an effective learning tool around the age of three and a half to four years (Rider & Sigelman, 2011, 6.3) and if this doesn’t develop naturally, it causes the individual to remain stuck in this early-developmental stage and unable to develop naturally into adulthood levels of intellect and maturity.
There is a wide range of reasons as to why a child’s attention span would not develop naturally ranging from their mother’s actions during the child’s prenatal stages: for instance, it has been proven that if a mother uses cocaine whilst pregnant, the child is likely to be fussier than other children and also to have a reduced attention span (Chang & Slikker, 1998, p494). Another cause is if the child is diagnosed as having ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) which is largely characterised by the child’s inability to focus or manage their behaviour due to a reduced attention span. Others complain that more modern lifestyles are causing children to have a reduced attention span: “Even more than television, digital technology is reducing the attention span and depth-of-learning of children” which has been worsened by the rise in sites such as Facebook (Gutek et al, 2010, p517) and there is evidence that the modern ability to be doing multiple activities at once is having a detrimental effect on children’s ability to focus on only one task at a time.
Our attention span is the crucial element that we must possess in order to fully engage with our education and the world around us. It is what enables us to converse effectively and develop relationships through the retention of information and so it naturally follows that if we suffer from a reduced attention span, it greatly depletes our chances of fulfilling our potential academic ability. The development of our attention span is something which naturally lengthens as the child grows older and as they age, the child will begin to exert attention for greater periods of time, they become more selective in what they attend to, and are better able to plan and carry out strategies to optimise the outcomes (Rider & Sigelman, 2011, 6.3). In short, if the child has a reduced attention span then they will be unable to successfully carry out these three things meaning that they will have a reduced ability to succeed academically and socially due to an inability to retain information to any great extent.
Rider, E.A. & Sigelman, C.K. (2011). Life-Span Human Development. California: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Gutek, G.L. et al. (2010). Foundations of Education. California: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Chang, L.W. & Slikker, W. (1998). Handbook of Developmental Neurotoxicology. San Diego: Academic Press.