Do children and youths today have a too-short attention span? Experts are concerned, but what’s the culprit? It’s been said that the internet is having a negative effect on people’s ability to concentrate. (See Is Google making us stupid? in The Atlantic.)
But children don’t really use the internet the way adults do, flitting from link to link. In fact, when my kids play the online video game Runescape, they are quite focused for the full hour they are allowed, and would go longer.
Runescape is a sort of fantasy world in which you gather tools and materials to make things, trade with other players, build a house and collect riches. Also there’s some fighting and killing of some sort of enemy. During and after the game, they plan strategies together. Also, sometimes we all discuss whether the materials need to make certain things are reality-based. It seems like they are, for the most part.
I suspect that the children’s book style popular today that seems to be trying to emulate a website, with lots of different parts all over the page like the one pictured below, is more of a problem in terms of attention span. Is this style supposed to somehow come down to the level of today’s distracted kids? Maybe the kids will actually read, because it feels like they are looking at a computer screen? I don’t buy books like this. I think this kind of book could do worse things to children’s attention spans than most video games.
A book that reduces attention span, a video game that improves it. A pretty shocking proposition.
For further reading, there’s a CNN story today that asks, “Why does the media still think video games are bad for kids?”