Screens Causing Attention Span and Education Deficits

by Noah Bair ‘24

As Paul Simon once sang, “A man walks down the street, he says ‘Why am I short of attention? Got a short little span of attention.’” Now more than ever, this statement holds true. The current average attention span is 47 seconds, compared to the 150 seconds that it used to be just two decades ago. This trend is jarring, as there’s no telling how far attention spans are going to dip down. Experts have concluded that the main culprit for causing this issue is the constant screens that adolescents are exposed to on a daily basis.

A 2019 Common Sense Media study found that the average 8 to 12 year old spent on average five hours a day looking at screens, and that number jumped up to more than seven hours in teens between the ages of 13 and 17. With apps like TikTok that feature videos about ten seconds in length, kids can no longer focus for long periods of time on activities, and tend to move from one activity to another very quickly. Most affected by lowered attention spans is the inability to focus during tests and other activities in school.

In October, it was reported that reading scores around the country dropped down to levels not seen since 1992. In math, nearly four out of every ten eighth graders failed to grasp basic math concepts. These results spell possibly destructive results for future generations. If kids can’t focus in school, how are they expected to succeed through middle and high school, then college, and into job industries?

While it may take a bit more than just a snap of the fingers to reverse these disconcerting results, something certainly needs to be done. Future generations may be able to multitask and understand technology better than any past generation, but they must also be able to sit down and read a book without looking at their phones.