Child Development Through Media
The ability to focus develops in stages. Small children have almost none. They see various stimuli and react.
Over time, children learn how to focus and steer their attention – towards things that interest them and can maintain their focus.
In this video, professor and neuroscientist Minna Huotilainen talks about how children’s brains develop, how games can be beneficial for brain development, and what kinds of things children should learn before they start school.
If we look at these gaming platforms or other media activities – the aim is to create age-appropriate content that keeps the child focused on the media.
This is especially true with games. Games offer the child little rewards, small accomplishments within the game – so that the focus stays on the game world for longer and longer.
It may result in the child focusing on media when they otherwise wouldn’t have – for as long. The rewards extended the time again and again. At that point, it’s hard to exit the virtual world.
If we look at small children not yet in school, they can focus – only briefly, and actions are short-sighted. But 5- and 6-year-olds show an improved ability to focus – and to choose where to place their focus.
At 6 or 7, first graders start school, and lessons are almost 45 minutes – of concentrating on one thing without constant rewards – which is unlike their usual games.
To develop a child’s attention span, they have to work on something – where the rewards aren’t immediate. It can mean practicing a skill, drawing, playing, or doing long, imaginary games. These things promote the learning of self-regulated focus.