Thursday, June 4, 2015

Parenting in the Age of Attention Snatchers

I can’t say enough about Lucy Jo Palladino’s new book, Parentingin the Age of Attention Snatchers: A Step-By-Step Guide to Balancing YourChild’s Use of Technology. This book should be in the hands of every parent from infancy to young adulthood. To date, this is the most comprehensive and practical guide for parents on how to help their children from a very young age learn to use their technology as opposed to having it use them. When children practice voluntary attention in their use of technology, they are building the neural pathways for attention and focus. When they allow digital devices to “snatch” their attention, they are building the neural pathways for involuntary attention. Voluntary attention is intentional, requires effort, is hard to sustain, and builds the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. The center of memory, focus and comprehension, among other strengths needed for success. Involuntary attention is effortless, is hard to stop, and builds the sensory cortex of the brain creating more reactivity, among other qualities that inhibit focus. 

I teach teens about technology awareness and mindfulness, helping them understand that the mindless use of technology stimulates their sympathetic nervous system, whereas mindfulness and meditation stimulate their parasympathetic nervous system. Until I read Palladino’s book, I did not consider the other ways to help teens develop sustained attention and focus. Parenting in the Age of the Attention Snatchers not only provides a comprehensive definition of voluntary attention and its characteristics juxtaposed again involuntary attention, it also provides concrete suggestions and solutions to the growing difficulty children and teens have paying attention.

I am working with teens preparing for the SAT and ACT college boards. I do not work with them on the academic aspect. Instead I help them train their brains to focus when they are studying, completing practice test, and taking the official tests. Asking students to maintain focus for over 3 hours is like asking runners to run a marathon without training. Lucy Jo’s outstanding book lays out the blueprint for instruction that I use.

I need to reiterate. This book belongs in the hands of every parent from infancy to young adulthood. I must say that I am practicing some of her suggestions with my own process of attention and focus, with technology and without.