Grand Thoughts: Attention span swiped by devices

Grand Thoughts: Attention span swiped by devices

November 5th, 2018 by Karen Nazor Hill in Life Entertainment

Imagine my shock when recently reading a hardback book, I swiped a page instead of turning it.


I'm 66. I've been reading books, the non-electronic kind, for more than six decades. And today I tried to turn a page with a swipe.

What the heck?

Karen Nazor Hill

Karen Nazor Hill

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

I'm the grandmother who constantly reminds her grandchildren they spend too much time on their electronics.

"Read a book. Build a castle with blocks. Color," I tell them.

And then I swipe a page in a hardback book.

Thank goodness my grandchildren — Tilleigh, 11, Evie, 8, and William, 6 — weren't here to see it. I'd never hear the end of it.

But it made me aware of my own connection to the digital world. I have a desktop, a laptop, a big iPad, a mini one, a smartphone, a Kindle and, for my birthday in September, I got an Apple Watch.

I mostly communicate with friends and family via social media, texting and occasional email.

I read books on my Kindle app.

I'm hooked.

Admittedly, the reason I was reading a physical book in the first place was because my iPhone was malfunctioning. The only purpose the broken phone served, was, well, as a phone. I couldn't read on it, play Scrabble, check out news websites, read my friends' latest posts on Facebook and Twitter, update my own accounts, text, get a quick look at my bank balance or listen to my playlists.

It forced me to actually read a magazine while sitting in a waiting room and pick up a "real" book at home.

I do subscribe to multiple publications, including this newspaper and several magazines. I've been a subscriber of the local paper my entire adult life, and that will never change. But my husband takes the paper with him to work every morning, so I read it online, except for weekends. As opposed to reading books online, I prefer to read the physical newspaper and magazines, which, by the way, I've never swiped. But the majority of everything else I read is online.

The swiping incident made me well aware that I'm just as guilty as my grandchildren when it comes to spending too much time on a mobile device.

Still, my grandkids are very athletic kids who love the outdoors. They would spend every minute every day outside playing if they could. But when they're inside, they head straight to the electronics.

It's not all bad, of course. Children, today, have to be digital-savvy. Evie, a third-grader, has some homework assignments that can only be done on a computer.

Also, many of the games they play on their mobile devices are educational.

But how much is too much?

Last year, Common Sense Research, an organization that provides data on children's use of media and its impact, reported that American children up to age 8 use screen media for an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes each day.

PBS reported that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children younger than 18 months not use any screen media except for video chatting and children up to age 5 should be limited to one hour of screen time per day.

It gets worse.

According to, a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the "Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds," revealed children and teens, 8-18, spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day using "entertainment media." This online use does not include homework, school-related online research or reading books.

Senior citizens, not surprisingly, are increasingly becoming digitally connected, reported last year. Adults ages 65 and up who own smartphones rose 24 percentage points (from 18 to 42 percent) since 2013. As of last year, four in 10 seniors own smartphones, and 67 percent of adults ages 65 and older say they go online.

Being connected today is practically a necessity. But recognizing limitations is imperative. My grandchildren do not need to see me holding my phone to read a book because they don't necessarily know that I'm reading a book. They just see that I'm focused on my phone. Ugh.

Before I change their habits, I've got to change mine. They need to see me read books and newspapers. I need to play Scrabble with them instead of against the computer.

Life goes by too fast to waste time staring at a screen. I'm going to practice what I preach. I'm turning the page.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at

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