In September I was observing in a primary class and happened to be present as the teacher gave a lesson to a three-year-old girl on cleaning a chalkboard. They were both wearing aprons, carried a bucket, sponge, towel and underlay to a table, and then brought a small, and very dusty, student-size chalkboard to the table, as well. The little girl watched with rapt attention as the teacher dipped the sponge in the bucket of water, squeezed it out and then began to wipe. As she wiped from left to right across the surface of the chalkboard, it changed from chalky white to a dark, shiny green before the child’s eyes.
Fourteen years ago the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement addressing children’s screen time that created a media hubbub. The statement was weak and ineffective. The ruckus was in grand disproportion to the Academy’s ho-hum recommendation that parents “avoid television for children under the age of two years.” It generated no positive results. Screen time for all children continues to increase. Parents still consider the television a member of the family. Mobile apps are every parent’s new best friend.
Learning disorders like ADHD seem to be ever on the rise, while many now question the effectiveness (particularly long-term) of the usual ADHD treatments. Is this “crisis of attention” due to genetics or to our increasingly hurried and distracted culture? And if environment is part of the problem, what can we as parents do to help our children focus better?