Saturday, June 16, 2007

Attention Span in Children

Kids today face immense pressure to succeed at school and in other activities as well. This pressure is further intensified by the fact that their minds and bodies are ruined due to excessive television viewing.

For instance, according to one study conducted in a group of 7 year olds it was discovered that a child cannot focus on studying for a minimum of 1 ½ to 3 hours after watching television.

In most families it has become customary to switch off the television and put the child to studying. It is not surprising that children are often scolded and needlessly punished and humiliated when they are unable to focus on the study material.

Their mind wanders just like that of a child suffering from ADHD except that the problem is television.

Previous entries on this blog have already explained the "orienting response" and the involuntary reactions it induces in the viewer. Children are especially sensitive to these reactions.

A child that has been watching television for 5 minutes needs a minimum of 1 ½ hours for his brain to come back to a state of normalcy where concentration is possible.

Within that period any act of studying is just a placebo for the parent that "my child is studying" when in reality the child's mind is not absorbing nor learning anything.

Television not only hampers concentration but it also creates problems with memory. This happens when a child finishes a study period and then immediately begins watching television.

The same scrambling process that occurs during pre-study viewing that prevents absorption of knowledge now scrambles the child's mind post-study and replaces recently acquired memories and supplants them with television memories.

This is because television creates a sense of urgency and panic, forcing the mind to forget everything else and focus all attention on the images on television.

It might be argued that showing educational programs might be helpful in this case.

Unfortunately, television memories are all "stress memories". Half an hour of television means anywhere from 2-6 hours of stress for the child.

After genetics, stress is the biggest worldwide cause for diabetes and hypertension. This is too big a price to pay to educate a child.

For heavy viewers, more than 2 hours of television per day, memory and concentration problems snowball and get worse with time. With advancing years the child's academic performance deteriorates increasingly.

In India parents are no longer able to educate their children and children are no longer able to learn on their own (there are exceptions of course). Most of this is blamed on the fact that the curriculum is getting too advanced. What is not taken into consideration is that no curriculum is too advanced for the generation for which it is created.

The problem is that lifestyle options like television that are made out of ignorance of its dangers are slowly dumbing down the whole country one generation at a time.

The United States today is the laughing stock of the world. In this era of television no one can be bothered to read history and see for themselves that America's problem began with television and worsened as viewing hours and viewing choices increased.

The pressures children face today are immense and yet the modern lifestyle is such that these very children are rendered incapable of coping with the challenges they must face. All this because their parents have some reason (fear of appearing socially backward, "You don't have a TV?", self induced fear of not having a TV, incapability or unwillingness to spend time with children or do chores, or anything else) that justifies the presence of a television in the house.

In Indian families it can be noticed that within a family, siblings separated by a few years during the emergence of 24-hour TV show marked difference in academic performance. Those who had achieved the age of 10-12 before TV became a perpetual household time pass seldom require extensive supervision or tutelage outside of school and home. Those born into the TV culture find it difficult to cope with academic life and tend to be slower in dealing with other aspects. They not only require additional tutelage but that tutelage is often ineffective in terms of practical help. It serves merely as a placebo for parents that they are doing their duty though the truth is that the child needs a healthier growing environment rather than a private tutor.

That is not to say that there are no smart children among the TV viewing population but they are now the minority. The intellectual demographic is being sharply divided like money in America. A small proportion is extremely brilliant while the rest just get along as best as they can.

The trouble with TV is that even 5 minutes of viewing means you lose your attention span, ability to focus, remember data, and analyze situations for well over two hours.

The attention span, concentration power, memorizing ability of these children is shot to hell and no one cares. Should this problem have occurred through any other medium besides television the entire household would be in an uproar but since it is due to television and ignorance of the side effects of watching that contraption these maladies are accepted a little too casually.

It is amazing how parents will concede that the child is not "bright" while remaining ignorant of the fact that perhaps it is not the child that is "dull" but the adults around the child that have made an addict out of the child and all other children besides.

When a family suffers from something it needs to take some action. However, when the adults in the family themselves are addicted to an electronic drug that has nothing to offer but endless suffering then there can be no hope for the generation they birth.

The east makes plenty of fun of the west and their dumbness but does not realize that everyone is getting dumb. In a few years Indians will be as dumb as Americans but we will not realize it because Americans will be dumber than they are now.

If your child's academic performance is unsatisfactory then do not assume the child to be dull. Check his/her viewing habits and do the following.

  • No television 2 hours before studying.
  • No television 2 hours after studying.
  • No television ½ hour before meals.
  • No television during meals.
  • No television 2 ½ hours after meals.
  • No television 4 hours before sleep time.
Digestion and sleep are crucial components to memory and concentration power. Most families eat in front of the television, which is where television addiction typically starts.

The human brain needs at least 2 hours or REM sleep to stay healthy. If your child wakes up at 6 then he/she must be asleep by 10pm. Not go to bed by 10pm but be asleep. So if it takes ½ hour to sleep then tuck the child in bed before 9:30pm.

A brain recently exposed to television is under tremendous stress and will refuse to go to sleep, a preliminary indication of insomnia, so give 3-4 hours clearance before the child's bedtime. Engage the child in physical activity to induce fatigue and if that does not suit you then read to the child.

Reading requires the child to imagine what the words represent and this acts like exercise for the mind, creativity, imagination, and constructive skills. Television does the reverse and fills the mind with nonsense images that blunt the child's intellect and imagination.

Television disrupts the child's sleep cycle. In most households this is because "busy" adults will stay up late to watch television and in crowded families this becomes a serious problem.

Switch to a healthier lifestyle for your children's sake. If you cannot live without your electronic drug then at least learn to control it.


Unknown said...

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Aman Gupta said...

very well written , quite helpful , thanks very much

Julian said...

Nice article, but it does not cite any sources so its validity is questionable.

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