21st Century’s Effects on Children’s Listening Skills

Many studies (such as listed in USA Today, MSNBC, and University of Oregon) conclude children are suffering from a lowered attention span due to activities such as television and computer games. Peter Jensen at the National Institute of Mental Health concluded, “Extensive exposure to television and video games may promote development of brain systems that scan and shift attention at the expense of those that focus attention.”

If you have children, you would often feel like you are talking to a brick wall. They often at times shrug you off ignoring what you have to say. The problem goes beyond discipline issues as some children do not pay attention for expected periods of time due to focusing problems.

When you think about it, does your child talk much when watching television or playing computer games?

Unless they provide commentary and annoy everyone else around them (that was aimed at my youngest brother :)) you probably answered “not much at all”. They will sit in front of a gaming console, computer, or television and become ‘mind slaves’ to the device as they ‘switch off’ their mind into the rapid, hypnotic pace these devices deliver. Of course, we do listen while watching yet the devices deliver sound at a greater speed that is considerably more entertaining to children then the sound of nagging parents talking to them.

This may sound strange, but watch someone watching television. Look at how warped the person appears. It seems as if the person stares livelessly into the television.

Television, computer games, and other highly immersive activities are consuming more and more of childrens’ time these days. When a child or anyone for instance, constantly receives their entertainment through computer games for example, they develop an increasing desire for instant entertainment which decreases their attention spans and hurts their listening skills.

Activities such as computer games, require a high level of concentration and reasonable skills to play. When these two are combined, time becomes distorted. Behavioral psychologists term this an internal state of enjoyment known as flow.

A child who constantly gets in flow from an activity by themselves (television, pc games, handheld devices, and gaming consoles) is likely to have their attention span reduced and their listening skills decline. Their ability to be patient is small as the child is used to getting entertained through the rapid pace these activities deliver. When the child needs to listen, the change of pace, from say a Mario game, to his/her parent talking about homework is slow and boring. Computer games and the like cause children to develop poor listening skills.

The first thing you need to do to teach your child better listening skills deals with what activities they have throughout the day. This first aim should be to develop better patience within your child so they at least have the ability to pay attention to the person who is speaking to them. Activities such as computer games are not evil and should not be totally banned, but their needs to be a level of moderation. It also increases the chances of improving your child’s health as they will spend less time sitting down. In addition, it helps develop the child’s social skills because of more face-to-face interaction. Follow President George W. Bush’s cheeky advice when he said, “They put an off button on the TV for a reason. Turn it off.”