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  • Natalie Matthews

Attention spans lacking in schools, teachers say

Updated: Apr 30

By Natalie Matthews

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Cheryl Jones, Extended Day Coordinator at Blessed Sacrament Catholic School in Charleston, misses her early teaching days when it was easy to get kids' attention and keep them engaged in learning.

“These children in Generation Alpha tune you out very well,” she said. “They are able to carry their own conversation and to focus on that and to not even hear you speaking.” 


Generation Alpha, kids born between 2010-2024, is unlike any other as they have grown up with technology from the start. 

“They are used to constant games at their fingertips,” said Nicole Matthews, a Kindergarten teacher at New Albany Elementary School in New Jersey. “They are used to playing games and getting to watch things the second they want it.” 

It is not uncommon for this generation to be constantly immersed in screens - and this causes problems.

“I think kids have a harder time occupying themselves. They need constant entertainment, instant gratification, and they get bored easily,” said Stuart Brayshaw, a fourth-grade teacher at Christ The King School in New Jersey.

Students in this generation's attention spans have become remarkably shorter, and their ability to listen attentively has decreased.

“I think the attention span is almost non-existent; they need constant stimulation to maintain focus,” Brayshaw said.

Generation Alpha’s weak attention spans are reshaping the dynamic of classrooms.

“They need so many little fidget toys to stay at their desk,” Matthews said. “I've had to put things on these desks and on the floor so they can fidget with something to listen to. Kids are just unable to focus.” 

Teachers have to become creative to grasp the attention of their students.

“Attention spans are extremely short because they are used to playing on an iPad constantly at home,” Matthews added.

The close relationship so many children today have with technology sets them apart from all the previous generations. 

“They are so drawn to screens and when I try to get them to do other things that may be less visually appealing, it's difficult for them to stay on task,” Matthews said.  “They are used to looking at their iPads all day, so I am competing with that.” 

However, teachers have found creative methods to counteract their students’ addictions to technology.

“Something that I found very helpful is playing listening games,” Jones added. “For example, instead of calling the children names to line up, I may say ‘If your name starts with the letter A get in line.’”

These strategies help force the kids to focus and listen.

“I use stuffed animals like the friendly frog, loving llama, listening lion to promote sharing and giving compliments and listening,” Matthews said.

This inability to focus on anything that is not a rapid-moving game or film, or take the time to search for an answer to a question, has researchers worried about the impact on not just the children’s futures but society’s as a whole.  

“This generation is going to grow up with information at the tip of their fingers,” said Jones. “They will never have to truly think and try to find answers on their own.”


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