Does a goldfish have a longer attention span than the average person? Although it sounds like a joke, recent studies show it might be true – read on to find out more!
Over the years, the goldfish has become well known as having one of the shortest attention spans. Although some biologists debate this, the number is generally cited around 9 seconds. Although this seems rather short, it’s not as crazy as you might think – studies dating back to 2000 measured humans as having a 12-second attention span on average. However, a recent study from Microsoft has found the average attention span has decreased to 8 seconds – seemingly lower than the famous goldfish!
So what has caused this drop in attention span? Research tends to indicate that modern society’s shift towards screens and electronic stimulation plays a substantial role. With people living their daily lives with multiple devices, screens, open tabs, notification banners, social media updates, etc. – it’s not entirely surprising that people now find it more difficult to focus on a single topic at once. The silver lining is that research also shows people are now better at multitasking (which also makes sense), but being able to direct and target one’s attention for an extended period of time is still a critical skill that is required for success both in the classroom and beyond.
Does your child struggle with a short attention span? Here are some tips to help increase their focus!
1. Minimize external distractions. When kids are at home, they are often surrounded by objects and stimuli that can easily draw their attention away from homework. Television noise, phone conversations, and other siblings can all contribute to these distractions. One of the first things we recommend parents do is to implement a “homework zone” for their child. This can be a small desk in their bedroom or any quiet area of your home – the goal is to provide your student with a dedicated homework space that will remain free of distractions until their responsibilities are completed.
2. Encourage organization. Students often have trouble starting assignments because their system for planning and organization is either ineffective or non-existent. It’s extremely common for parents to remark, “It takes him at least half an hour just to find his materials before starting on homework.” More often than not, these students have their school materials jumbled together – and this lack of organization leads to spending unnecessary time and energy that could be devoted to studying. At Tutor Doctor, one of our goals is to help students develop their executive functioning skills. The passionate tutors we work with help students to identify problem areas with their current arrangement and create a system that will better manage their academic responsibilities. To learn more about how Tutor Doctor can help with executive skills, click here.
3. Limit electronic devices. Hopping from app to app doesn’t promote targeted focus, so try limiting your student’s screen time for half an hour prior to starting assignments. Encourage them to “unplug” and focus on a targeted activity, even if it’s not academic. For example, shooting some basketball hoops in the driveway, or reading their favorite graphic novel. These types of activities are a great way to wind down and “switch gears” towards a mindset of directed focus.