Why children get distracted and how to regain their attention

We need to understand the reasons why children become distracted. It is often thought that children nowadays spend too much time with screens. But this view is too simplistic and idealistic. Let’s see why they are so dependent on digital devices.

Psychological nutrition

According to behavioral researchers Richard Ryan and Edward Deci, excessive use of technology indicates psychological malnutrition. Just like adults, children need three things: autonomy (being able to make independent decisions), competence (learning and improving) and connectedness (meaningful relationships with others).

Missing elements

Many children miss these essential elements in their offline lives. At school they are limited by rules and at home they feel the pressure of parental expectations. Standardized tests do not stimulate their imagination, so they experience less unstructured time with friends.

Online world as a refuge

It is therefore not surprising that children resort to the online world. This is the only place where they can roam freely and hang out with friends independently. If you want your children to be less digitally distracted, make sure you give them the psychological nutrients they need.

Unplanned playtime

Make sure they have plenty of unstructured playtime. Numerous studies emphasize the importance of this for their development. Find like-minded parents and schedule regular meetings for their children.

Involvement and control

It is important that children have a say in how they spend their time. They can learn to deal with distractions just like adults. Talk to them about technology, its dangers, and ask how much time they think they should spend on their phones.

Get a grip on distractions

Support them in managing their own external distractions. Discuss this topic; sometimes you might be the distraction. Help them make their own appointments to avoid distractions. For example, the author’s daughter learned to track Netflix time with a kitchen timer at the age of five. This was her own idea!

From “Indistractable” by Nir Eyal