Video Technologies on Children's Attention Spans I Essay

Download this Essay in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from Essay:

Video Technologies on Children's Attention Spans

I see that engrossed look in her eyes and I can't tell if it's reverie or focus. I don't know if the lights are on and learning is under way, or if the lights are dimmed and vegetation is spawning. -- Jeff Weinstock, 2007

The epigraph above is reflective of the concern that many adults have that video technologies are harming children's attention spans. The dictionary definition for the term, "attention span," states that this refers to the amount of time that an individual or group of people is able to maintain focus, interest or concentration on something (Merriam-Webster, 2012). Parents and educators can readily testify that many young people have shorter attention spans than adults, but the reasons for this difference remain a source of controversy. Some researchers maintain that young people's attention spans and academic performance are being adversely affected by video technologies, including computers, video games and television. Other researchers, though, argue that poorly designed curricular offerings and a lack of focus on reading for young people are more salient with respect to any diminution of attention spans and suboptimal academic outcomes. To determine the facts in this issue, this paper provides a review of the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature concerning the effects of video technologies on children's attention spans, followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.

Review and Analysis

To listen to some critics, the country's young people are in trouble and the fault can be wholly attributed to video technologies. For instance, one educator emphasizes that, "A new scourge is sweeping the land. Kids have grown isolated from family members and no longer play outside. Chores go undone. Homework waits. Books go unread. Teachers note distracted students" (Stager, 2003, p. 41). Indeed, some educators even maintain that video technologies are eroding the ability of young people to think critically about the world and the issues that are important to them (Greengard, 2009). Other researchers have "blamed 'Sesame Street' and MTV for creating communication chaos -- an attention span of seconds instead of minutes" (Saltzman, 2009, p. 61).

This type of cyberphobia, though, does not reflect the reality of the situation when it comes to how video technologies are actually affecting young people. In this regard, Stager adds that, "Critics of school computer-use attempt to frighten the community with cautionary speculation about how kids will become antisocial, withdrawn, obese or, more importantly, unable to perform long division" (2003, p. 41). Likewise, an educator with a 6-year-old daughter reports that she is enormously concerned about the effects of video technology on his daughter's attention span: "A controlled photo shoot is about as much exposure to video games as I'm comfortable with her getting right now. As persuaded as I am by their educational potential, I'm wary of what they'll do to her attention span" (Weinstock, 2009, p. 6).

The click-and-point Millennial Generation is actually far better off than most observers might believe who rely on this type of alarmist hyperbole. In fact, Stager (2003) suggests that the blame for any diminution in critical thinking skills or academic outcomes among young people lies elsewhere. Educators are quick to point the finger at video technologies as the reason their young charges are not living up to their potential. For instance, Stager (2003) emphasizes that, "Conventional wisdom suggests that television and video games must be responsible for low literacy levels and short attention spans" (2003, p. 41). Unfortunately, the type of video content that is involved is frequently left out of the analysis and other potential causes for diminished attention spans are simply ignored. In this regard, Stager adds that, "The prophylactic effect of school reading methods and inauthentic curricula are rarely considered" (2003, p. 41).

Notwithstanding these assertions to the contrary, the research to date does suggest that even very young children have attention spans that can be affected by video technologies, depending on the type of content that is being viewed. For instance, a study by Van Den Broek, Bauer and Bourg (1999) determined that "Very young children bring to television viewing background information that influences their attention to the content of the story, and use cues such as voice, to direct attention to salient parts of the story" (p. 37). These researchers concluded that although young people's mental processes are still in a developmental phase, they are capable of actively selecting and organizing video content in order to understand it, but very young children do not use this video content after the presentation to reconstruct the story afterwards (Van Den Broek et al., 1999).

There have been some other studies that also indicate video content has an effect on attention spans among young learners, but these findings are not all that surprising because if young people are not able to understand video content, their level of interest and corresponding attention spans are naturally adversely affected. In this regard, a recent study by Pempek, Kirkorian, Richards, Anderson, Lund and Stevens (2010) used the television program, "The Teletubbies," to investigate attention spans in young people. In this study, normal and distorted versions of "The Telebubbies" were shown to a group of young people to gauge their respective attention spans. According to these researchers, "Earlier research established that preschool children pay less attention to television that is sequentially or linguistically incomprehensible" (Pempek et al., 2010, p. 1283).

While these findings may appear intuitive (after all, even young children want to understand what is being heard and seen), the attention span exists along a continuum that begins early on, typically around age 6 months and continues to be shaped as young people grow older. In this regard, Pempek and his associates report, "Only 24-month-olds, and to some extent 18-month-olds, distinguished between normal and distorted videos by looking for longer durations toward the normal stimuli" (Pempek et al., 2010, p. 1283). These findings clearly indicate that young people's attention spans are not necessarily affected by video technologies, but rather the type of content that is being delivered.

In fact, many educators have fully embraced video technologies as a way to improve young people's critical thinking skills and attention spans. In this regard, Wilson, Darden, Gibson and Meyler (2007) report that, "Technology has become a fascination to children in the 21st Century. Once we admitted our culture has changed and televisions, computers, iPods and video games have taken over the lives of many youth, we viewed it as our responsibility not to fight it, but to use it to help achieve our goals" (p. 12). Therefore, video technologies can promote critical thinking and increased attention spans if certain environmental factors are taken into account. For example, young learners who are provided with larger video screens with higher resolutions that enhance the viewing experience have been shown to demonstrate increased attention spans (Baudisch, DeCarlo, Duchowski & Geisler, 2003).

Likewise, a study by Dye, Green and Bavalier (2009) found that video games that feature more action more actively engage young players, thereby allowing them to allocate their attention spans across both space and time. According to Dye and his associates, "The data suggest that action video game players of all ages have enhanced attentional skills that allow them to make faster correct responses to targets, and leaves additional processing resources that spill over to process distractors flanking the targets" (p. 1780). In addition, even some early video games were specifically designed to become more difficult and challenging if the player's attention span waned, thereby helping young people remain focused on the task at hand (Pope & Bogart, 1999).


Despite arguments to the contrary, the research showed that young people's attention spans are not necessarily being harmed because of video technologies, but rather because of the type of content that…[continue]

Cite This Essay:

"Video Technologies On Children's Attention Spans I" (2012, September 30) Retrieved December 8, 2016, from

"Video Technologies On Children's Attention Spans I" 30 September 2012. Web.8 December. 2016. <>

"Video Technologies On Children's Attention Spans I", 30 September 2012, Accessed.8 December. 2016,

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Technology and Children s Attention Spans I Decided

    Technology and children's attention spans I decided to select the topic of the impact of technology on children's attention spans because it was of great personal interest to me. Like many young people, I have heard adults complain that my generation has a very short attention span. It is hard for me to gauge this, of course, because I only have my own perceptions as a reference. Anecdotally, this seems

  • Effect of Video Games on Children

    Video Games on Children Owing to the advent of digital media over the past few decades, technology has taken over many dimensions of the world and given the media a 360 degree turn by entirely switching the way it previously worked. The computer era not only changes the way transactions were done, documents were prepared, statistical tools were used and made the world global but it also changed the way

  • Video Games Have for a

    Dopamine is a pleasure inducing chemical that is secreted whenever an individual engages his/her mind in the playing f video games. The New brain research that was conducted years back (Bartholow, Bushman & Sestir, 2006) was the first to show that the playing of violent video games results in bad health of the players. The emphatic responses of the brain to the simulation of certain real-life violence such as shooting

  • Teenager s Awareness and Their Lack

    In this article, the author describes the technological, demographic, and market forces shaping this new digital media culture and the rich array of Web sites being created for children and teens. Many nonprofit organizations, museums, educational institutions, and government agencies are playing a significant role in developing online content for children, offering them opportunities to explore the world, form communities with other children, and create their own works of

  • Mcdonald s Integrated Marketing Campaign This Paper Is

    McDonald's Integrated Marketing Campaign This paper is divided into two distinct sections. The first chapter is based on literature reviews of various scholarly works that are related to the topic of integrated marketing campaign that are also relevant to the McDonald marketing campaign that was created to celebrate the inherent democracy of the McDonald's brand. The first chapter is further divided into three parts; the first section mainly focus on advertising

  • Kinesthetic Learners Achievement Levels in Technology Rich

    Kinesthetic Learners Achievement Levels in Technology Rich Classrooms Hypothesis With Operational Definitions Computers and Kinesthetic Learning Existing Research The Challenge 2000 Multimedia Project Collaborative Visualization (CoVis) Project Apple Classroom of Tomorrow Project American Culture in Context: Enrichment for Secondary Schools SchoolNet / Rescol Report: The emerging contribution of online resources and tools to classroom learning and teaching Lehrer HyperAuthor Study The Highly Interactive Computing Environments (HI-CE) Group Lego/Logo Project Interactive technologies that are appealing to kinesthetic learning such as multimedia, hypermedia, and

  • Application of a Pedagogic Model to the Teaching of Technology to...

    Pedagogic Model to the Teaching of Technology to Special Education Students Almost thirty years ago, the American federal government passed an act mandating the availability of a free and appropriate public education for all handicapped children. In 1990, this act was updated and reformed as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which itself was reformed in 1997. At each step, the goal was to make education more equitable and more

Read Full Essay
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved