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Continuous Partial Attention
September 27, 2018
Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy, and mutual valuing.
-Rollo May

“Smartphones have by now been implicated in so many crummy outcomes—car fatalities, sleep disturbances, empathy loss, relationship problems, failure to notice a clown on a unicycle—that it almost seems easier to list the things they don’t mess up than the things they do. Our society may be reaching peak criticism of digital devices,” writes Erika Christakis in the July/August 2018 edition of The Atlantic.

“Even so, emerging research suggests that a key problem remains underappreciated,” she continues. "It involves kids’ development, but it’s probably not what you think. More than screen-obsessed young children, we should be concerned about tuned-out parents…

Despite a dramatic increase in the percentage of women in the workforce, mothers today astoundingly spend more time caring for their children than mothers did in the 1960s. But the engagement between parent and child is increasingly low-quality, even ersatz. Parents are constantly present in their children’s lives physically, but they are less emotionally attuned…

Yet for all the talk about children’s screen time, surprisingly little attention is paid to screen use by parents themselves, who now suffer from what the technology expert Linda Stone more than 20 years ago called ‘continuous partial attention.’ This condition is harming not just us, as Stone has argued; it is harming our children. The new parental-interaction style can interrupt an ancient emotional cueing system, whose hallmark is responsive communication, the basis of most human learning. We’re in uncharted territory.”

Source: “The Dangers of Distracted Parenting,” by Erika Christakis, The Atlantic, July/August 2018

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Comments (2)

Displaying All 2 Comments
Arlene DeCicco · October 02, 2018
McKor Shalon Nursery
Cherry Hill, NJ, United States

An interesting article. Has all the technology that is available to us, taken away our power of genuinely listening to each other?

Missy Brown · September 27, 2018
CCR&R at John A Logan College
Carterville, IL, United States

The focus of our provider newsletter this month is about Listening; how children learn it, why we need to be better at it, etc. This ExchangeEveryDay made me think of this article I recently read:
Why Parents Should Put Down Their Smartphones


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