We no longer livE in a time in which youngsters are having to adapt to the challenges of a newly-evolving technological age. Instead, children from the very earliest age are now being introduced into a seductive, deeply-engaging and over-stimulating electronic world from the very moment that they are born.
Grandparents who stare in wonder at the way in which their four year old kids so freely and intuitively navigate portable media devices such as the tablet and smart phone will wonder at the way in which young minds appear to be smarter, more responsive, quicker to learn and more malleable than they ever were at that same age.
Nonetheless, we must not be Luddites about this for the world is changing and new generations are indeed fizzing with highly active neural networks—minds eager to absorb information and be challenged by mental puzzles and games.
However, as Lucy Jo Palladino, an award-winning clinical psychologist from California states in her book Parenting in the Age of Attention Snatchers, the
…nagging sense of doubt about the touchscreen generation has been dubbed ‘the neurosis of our age.
This is as in may be but in her ground-breaking book Lucy Jo Palladino single-handedly offers an alternative approach to those parents, teachers and guides of older generations who are struggling with the challenges that the universal embracement of new technology places upon them.
The book is based around three parts.
In the first the author investigates the sort of moral and disciplinary challenges that children caught up and seduced by the richness and vibrancy of parts of the technosphere—those such as gaming, face on a daily basis.
She reveals the impact that the release of large amounts of neurotransmitters such as dopamine have on the development of a young brain and references the two different types of modes of attention that emerges within a child at a tender age—namely those of a ‘involuntary’ and ‘voluntary’ nature.
In schools and other education establishments throughout the western world the challenge of keeping students attention is becoming increasingly difficult to meet.
It is not easy to try and infiltrate a youngsters brain who has been developed around the desire for constant auditory and visual stimulation—along with the sense of excitement and adrenaline-release that it creates, to remain fixed upon the topics under discussion.
In part two of the book Lucy Jo Palladino shares seven steps that she specifically offers as ways of teaching a child to pay attention and to remain fixed upon any given mental task.
This ranges from the need to develop the correct mindset within a child—one based upon voluntary attention, through to the need of parents to enter into the consciences of children and to create the sort of family and home-based environment that is conducive to non-tech-based learning patterns
In the third and final part of her book the author focusses upon the sort of ‘attention snatchers’ that permeate our society and which create such challenges for us all.
Once again video games are seen as one of the primary culprits in this area. As parents—most of whom are dedicated to helping. caring, nurturing and rewarding their child, their efforts can sometimes appear to be only minimal given the degree to which even the most simplistic video games are so addictive to a young child given that they utilise the very same reward mechanisms that parents employ in child-rearing.
Another, and some would say even more pernicious form of electronic intrusion, is that of social media. This is one that, due to the widespread use and availability of mobile phones, can impact upon important quality family time such as meals and holidays.
The book closes with self-empowering advice to parents in how to treat the challenge of balancing a technological and non-technological set of parameters in a childs life.
In a final statement the author closes with an observation that sums up her approach to child-rearing in the 21st century which is that
…parenting in the age of attention snatchers requires awareness, knowledge and balance.
The challenges to parents, grand-parents and teachers has never been greater!
I find it extra-ordinary to think that my father was taught the basics of the ‘three Rs’ by repetitively scrawling them on a hand-held piece of slate with a small piece of chalk.
His grand-daughter learnt the same processes using her own personal computer.
Somewhere between those two poles, society has had to adjust to way that we approach child-development. I think education still has a long way to go before it understands the fundamental shift in consciousness that has occurred within people over the past few decades but as Lucy Jo Palladino so brilliantly demonstrates in her book there are many parents who recognise the immense dangers that can exists when introducing new-technology into the lives of their young children.
This is not a book that derides the impact of technology nor castigates those who use psychological mechanisms within computer games to stimulate a childs’ unguarded emotional response mechanisms
Instead, it is a book that deals with some very real and immensely challenging realities—the main one being that technology is here to stay and that we must all adapt to the challenges that it brings us.
It is this sense of roundedness and balance that makes Parenting in the Age of Attention Snatchers such a powerful manual of guidance and instruction.
It establishes a very fact-based analysis of the issues and yet does not cloud or confuse the concerns of its readership with heavy doses of psycho-babble.
Instead I found it to be a clear, focussed and rational commentary in the way that it offers, he;ps and supports a parent in his or her role as a custodian of a young and developing mind.
It explains in clear-cut terms exactly what the issues are, how they can be addressed and why it is quite so important that a line is drawn between a childs’ online/technological persona and their normal/healthy mindy/body development.
This is a significant achievement and as a publication it should be recognised as an important tool—one that counter-balances our blind absorption of all aspects of our lives by the ubiquitous spread of hand-held devices and gaming consoles.
It is a book that contains hard-hitting advice that we can all benefit from!
Lucy Jo Palladino offers a fascinating, practical and incisive commentary about child development—one that recognizes the dangers inherent within our technology-based society but which also empowers all parents and teachers to counteract its pernicious influence. It should be read by everyone for its wisdom and insight restores a sense of balance and objectiveness that is fast disappearing from our World.