My Goldfish and the Average Attention Span

We hear about “joint attention” and paying attention frequently in reference to children and their behavior in school and at home.  Educators use terms like, “focus, concentration, zeroing in, and actively listening” to communicate an issue in the classroom.  As more and more children get diagnosed with ADHD and ADD, it might be useful to examine this core subject a bit more closely.

Sensational headlines indicate that the human attention span has now fallen below that of a goldfish.  What used to be 12 seconds has now dipped below 9 seconds.  Are you with me?  However, more thoughtful research designs take into account interest in what is being presented as a factor in children’s attention span. “How come Joey can focus on Legos for 2 hours but in history class, the teacher says he’s off topic every 30 seconds?”

Attention is actually the building block or gateway into higher level thought processes.  Attention is just that, with no judgment or prejudice until all the information has been considered.  After which, higher level, critical thinking kicks in.  Where does this essential skill come from?  The ability to pay attention is an intersection of an individual's genetic makeup and their experiences in earliest infancy during mirroring and joint attention given by the primary caregiver.  There is no argument that individuals with this skill do better socially, academically and with all life skills. Inquiring parents want to know, can this skill be improved?

Tips For Increasing Attention Span In Children

— STOP what you are doing and pay attention to your children.

— Put down the phone (#1 complaint I hear from kids) and look, smile, show interest, ask questions.  There is no substitute for you.

— When you pay attention to your child and actively listen, their self-image soars along with their sense of security and safety

— Be realistic but praise your child when they are doing the right thing.  Give positive feedback.

— Remind children to look at what they need to be paying attention to.  As goes the gaze so goes the brain!

— Enjoy this video as a reward for making it through my 30-second article!  My goldfish and I appreciate it…

Jacklyn Covell, Clinical Director, School Psychologist

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 1.25.50 PM.png