Causes of Short Attention Span

Tess Thompson

A short attention span is a much greater problem than just not being able to concentrate on something. The issue needs far more serious thought than it is given today.

One of the common causes of a short attention span in children and some adults is the delayed development of the brain. This developmental problem or immaturity, if you like, is known as Attention Deficit Disorder. It is characterized by an impaired ability to learn, to listen, to wait for one's turn or to complete a task. While in a small percentage of children it may be a reaction to disorderly home environment, it is normally not a condition that is caused by improper parenting. These symptoms are probably natural in children below three to four years of age. However, they are a major cause for concern if they continue beyond that. Hyperactive children are also more prone to have a short attention span.

Attention Deficit Disorder or hyperactivity affects less than 5% children. It is more common in boys than in girls. As it is a developmental problem it can be handled if parents and teachers look upon it as a behavioral problem and adopt disciplinary techniques to manage it. Unfortunately, specialists are more prone to highlighting medical causes, which are mostly hereditary. This leads to a heavy dependence on pharmaceuticals and the behavioral aspect of managing ADD is lost in many cases.

The way society has evolved is equally to blame. The effect of our fascination with the latest electronic gadgetry goes far deeper than we would like to believe. Day in and day out we allow ourselves to be exposed to sound-bite news and event coverage on television. The same goes for the meaningless and plot-less movies being dished out under the guise of public demand. Add to that, the enchantment with cell phones and it is not difficult to understand why the attention spans of adults and children alike are shortening. The obsession with television has reached such proportions that a child's attention span while watching TV is not taken into account while assessing his/her abilities to focus.

The fact is that our capacities to communicate and understand have been seriously hampered. The saddest part of the scenario that is emerging is that we are closing our minds by tuning out our ears and shutting our eyes to information.

If a child is born with a hereditary short attention span and inability to focus, parents and teachers should provide support by extending external controls. To set an example for our children, we can at least demand more meaningful content, control obsessions to gadgets and involve ourselves in more outdoor activities so that we do not become a generation of self centered people that puts a huge stake on personal opinions. The best way to learn and improve your attention span is to keep an open mind, gather as much information as you can, and then try to analyze it critically.


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