Attention Span and Screen Time with Researcher Dr. Gloria Mark | POP 862

Attention Span and Screen Time with Researcher Dr. Gloria Mark | POP 862

Do you want to improve your relationship with technology? Have you often lost hours to endless scrolling and screen time? How can you develop a healthier, freer, and more positive approach to using technology in your daily life?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about attention span and screen time with researcher Dr. Gloria Mark.

Podcast Sponsor: PsychMaven

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Meet Gloria Mark

A photo of Dr. Gloria Mark is captured. She is Chancellor’s Professor of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine. Gloria is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast.

Gloria Mark is Chancellor’s Professor of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine. She received her PhD from Columbia University in psychology.

Gloria’s research interest is in understanding the impact of digital media on people’s lives and she is best known for her work in studying people’s multitasking, mood, behaviour, and stress in real world environments. Her goal is to create a holistic picture of people’s technology use using objective measurements combined with other data. She has published over 200 papers and is author of the books Attention Span and Multitasking in the Digital Age.

Visit Gloria Mark’s website and connect on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

In This Podcast

  • The impact of a shorter attention span
  • Are digital detoxes effective?
  • You might be interrupting yourself
  • How parents can teach healthy tech habits to their kids
  • How to improve your relationship with tech
  • Dr. Mark’s advice to private practitioners

The impact of a shorter attention span

People’s attention spans have been gradually getting shorter over the last couple of years. The main consequence of a shorter attention span is an increase in stress.

We know from decades of laboratory research that when people are shifting their attention among different tasks, we know that blood pressure rises. There’s a physiological marker in the body that indicates people are stressed.

Dr. Mark

Screen switching continuously not only decreases attention span, but as Dr. Mark explains, it increases stress simultaneously.

Not only does switching between tasks make them longer to complete, but people often also make more errors on the tasks that they are working between.

Are digital detoxes effective?

A digital detox is like a crash diet. You do something extreme for a short period until you see changes, and then you drop the change and go back to how you were before, which often makes things worse than they were at the beginning.

The answer is the same: if you want sustainable, positive change, then you need to make small and sustainable positive shifts until the habits that make up the daily routines are transformed.

It’s just not feasible [in a technological world to avoid it] … I’m an advocate of changing our behaviors so that we have a permanent solution for how we use our devices.

Dr. Mark

Rather than depending on software blocking apps or extreme detoxes to limit your screen time, address and adjust your habits so that you can retain your agency and be in control.

Now, [software blocking apps] did have a benefit for people who have poor self-regulation skills, and again, the software was doing the work for them, but for these individuals, I would much rather [they] learn how to take command of their ability to control their attention and resist distractions.

Dr. Mark

You might be interrupting yourself

External distractions and interruptions happen often like phone calls or emails or another person asking you a question.

However, from studies done, researchers found that 49% of the time people interrupted themselves while they were completing a task. These interruptions could be:

  • An urge
  • A memory to do something
  • An automatic habit to keep checking the phone or emails

How parents can teach healthy tech habits to their kids

The executive function helps people control [their response to] distractions and helps regulate what people do, and for young kids to be exposed to technology at such a young age before their executive function is mature is just not a good idea.

Dr. Mark

Dr. Mark suggests that parents, especially for young children, limit screen time and encourage kids to play off-screen.

Instead, you can also teach children to learn to love reading because reading is a powerful yet peaceful learning tool for a developing brain.

Be careful about what you’re teaching your children, and this comes from your own behaviors as well. Model to your kids that life is much bigger and better than sitting in front of a screen and letting it entertain you.

How to improve your relationship with tech

One of the main things that you can do to develop an agency over your technology usage is to become aware of your automatic actions.

We have all kinds of automatic actions when we use our devices. We’re just habituating to picking up our phone when we look at it when we’re checking email … the goal is to make these kinds of unconscious or automatic actions [present] to our conscious awareness.

Dr. Mark

Develop your meta-awareness which is an awareness of what you are doing while it is unfolding. Simply put, it is being intentional with what you are doing. When you feel the urge to do something on a screen, ask yourself:

  • Do I really need to do that right now?
  • Why do I need to do it?

Commit to learning how to regulate your attention and concentration by practicing meditation. Even for a couple of minutes a day, because it helps you to focus your mind, settle on one task, and let your brain rest from constant stimulation.

Dr. Mark’s advice to private practitioners

Be willing to take risks. Playing it safe will keep you safe, but if you want to grow, develop, and improve, then you need to get yourself out there and try new things with the courage to fail and to succeed.

Books mentioned in this episode:

Sponsors mentioned in this episode:

Useful links mentioned in this episode:

Check out these additional resources:

Meet Joe Sanok

A photo of Joe Sanok is displayed. Joe, private practice consultant, offers helpful advice for group practice owners to grow their private practice. His therapist podcast, Practice of the Practice, offers this advice.

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

Thanks For Listening!

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