Attention economics parenting

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Human beings are capable of paying attention at a rate of 110 bytes per second,  according to online marketing guru Dave Duarte. And because attention is finite (we only have so much to give) it is a valuable resource.

How many of those bytes do we use per day on clutter, as opposed to our families and things that really matter? Every time we choose to check Twitter or do a Facebook quiz instead of talking to our real-life human families, we may be guilty of ‘filter failure’.  A technical term used by systems people, it applies just as well to our own mental filters or lack of them.

And it’s not only parents who are overloaded with too much grabbing their limited attention resources.

Kids from early on learn to do many things at the same time, paying scant attention to the visiting friends as they all scurry from the television to the computer to the Playstation. And for parents, getting the eyes and ears of these young multi-taskers is no easy job.

Humans are adjusting to the constant calls on us, says Dave, citing a statistic that we are now walking 10% faster and talking 20% faster than 10 years ago. Hard to believe until you hear a group of schoolgirls chatting to each while sharing gossip on Mxit and instant messaging other friends at the same time.

The answer? Like marketers we need to learn to draw attention to the things that really matter, and to help our children cut through the mental clutter. We need to use our resources wisely and not squander the few attention bytes that are sent our way.

‘Intelligence is the ability to connect,’ Dave says. But it takes not only intelligence, but also wisdom, to be able to connect with kids in this environment where attention is scarce, and distraction is myriad.

What steps do you take to capture your children’s attention? And do they get enough of yours?


Read more by Adele Hamilton.
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