Very few people would argue with the idea that our children are living in what has been termed the 'age of distraction'.

Earlier this summer, Microsoft published a study that showed that the average attention span of a person had shrunk from 12 seconds in 2001 to 8 seconds in recent years. To dramatically prove this point, the statement has been made by some that humans now have a shorter attention span than a normal goldfish.

Very few people would argue with the idea that our children are living in what has been termed the “age of distraction.” While technology has created amazing opportunities and changed our world in positive ways, at the same time it has created an environment in which distraction is a constant.

The funny thing is that mankind has said this before throughout history. Believe it or not there are documents that show people writing about their concerns related to books and the impact they might have on children as they became cheap and widely available to the masses after the invention of the printing press. We see similar writings about the radio, TV, and obviously now about the internet.

There is, however, a significant difference between the impact those inventions had and what we are seeing today. This is mainly because we now have billion dollar companies who simply make money by getting and keeping our attention. Their profits depend on their ability to keep us focused on their website, game, TV show, etc. What’s most concerning is how good they are at it and the unknown of what that is doing to us, but more importantly, what is it doing to our kids.

In this age of distraction it now becomes the responsibility of parents to teach and train their children how to live with the constant opportunity for instant entertainment and distraction. We must first become aware of this new paradigm that surrounds us and then take intentional steps to teach our children how to live in it. It will not go away and will become more and more pervasive in the coming years so it becomes our responsibility to prepare our children for it.

It is my hope that most of you were able to beat your pet goldfish and have read all the way to this point in the article. If you have, then you will learn that our theme this year is “Focus 2020” and one of the areas we will be talking about and looking at is the issue of developing “focus” in this age of distraction. I look forward to trying to keep your attention on this important topic throughout the weeks and months ahead.

Written by Karl Steinkamp

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Head of School since 2006.
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