Parenting in the Age of Attention Snatchers - Release Date - Today!

Parents must boldly go where no parents before them have gone. We live in an era of firsts for toddlers and touchscreens, kids on-line in the classroom, teens connecting on social media. That's why I wrote PARENTING IN THE AGE OF ATTENTION SNATCHERS . . . to share with parents what I've learned from studying attention and child development, and from my practice as a psychologist helping kids who struggle at school and families who want more balance at home.

Parents face a new and important challenge. Kids need to be proficient with technology -- it powers their world. It's wrong to forbid screens all together. At the same time, kids need to be discerning about their online activities and be willing and able to turn off entertainment media when it's time to read, study, listen, play outside, and have to face-to-face contact and meaningful conversation. Kids need to be able to pay attention without screens, too.

For more about PARENTING IN THE AGE OF ATTENTION SNATCHERS: A Step-by-Step Guide to Balance Your Child's Use of Technology, amazon has a look-inside feature.


We live in an exciting age. With the power of technology in their pockets, and the ability to use that power in their hands, imagine what our children will accomplish!

Come to one of our book events . . . 
Tues, May 4 at 7 PM, Books, Inc, Palo Alto, CA, Author Talk, Q&A, Book Signing
Wed, May 5 at 7 PM, Folio Books, San Francisco, CA, Reading & Wine, Book Signing

Your Baby's Doctor Has Good Reasons

Recently, I was invited to write an op/ed piece for the NY Times. I was asked for my opinion about avoiding screens for infants younger than 2 years old. I chose the strongest argument I know: brain development.

Infant with Ipad screen

I included a reference to the evidence-based recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that screens be avoided for children under age 2.  These recommendations have been criticized for being impractical in today's world.

The AAP recognizes that some exposure to screens is unavoidable. (They aren't recommending "no screens under any circumstances," the way that a child with a peanut allergy must avoid even trace amounts.) But the AAP has stood firm in its recommendation for good reason: it's well-founded in scientific knowledge about the rate and sequencing of brain growth during infancy, as well as specific findings of studies in this area.

The AAP published a review article of this research in their professional journal, Pediatrics. A helpful summary is described in this Washington Post article.

Why avoid screens for infants younger than two? Because it builds better brains.


American Academy of Pediatrics. Media and Children. (Current Policy Statement)

American Academy of Pediatrics. Media Use by Children Younger than 2 Years. Pediatrics, 128 (5), November 2011, pages 1040-1045.

Kucirkova, N. Is Your Child Under Age 2? Keep Them Away From Smartphones, Tablets, and Computers. Washington Post, Oct. 24, 2014.

Palladino, L.J.,  Avoid Screens for Children Under 2 Years of Age. New York Times, April 13, 2015.

Will Your Child Be Technologically Competent?

Do iPads belong in a preschool classroom?

At a workshop for educators last year, several preschool teachers told me they didn’t want iPads in their classrooms. The iPads were introduced however, because a number of the parents felt strongly that children need to start early to be technologically competent at school.  What is the best route to technological competence for your child?


Next time you’re befuddled by Windows, consider this: Last Fall, Ayan Qureshi of Coventry, England, passed the industry-wide Microsoft Certified Professional exam. Ayan is five years old. In his words, the test was “difficult but enjoyable.”

Ayan’s path began at age three. He liked to sit down next to his father, an IT consultant, and watch. Over time, his dad explained the basics to him and gave him old computers to take apart. Ayan played with hard drives and motherboards.

While other kids were captivated by iPad apps and TV, Ayan installed and configured operating systems, tinkered with routers and switches, and read Microsoft books. “I knew that if I introduced him to the games, he would not go for this,” his dad astutely observed. Today, Ayan spends two hours a day in his homemade computer lab. He appears to have retained his childlike wonder. He likes compasses, telescopes, and told a reporter, “The rainbow colored light reflected through a prism is amazing.”


Ayan is exceptional. But here’s what I especially like about his story.

1.     Ayan’s dad welcomed his son’s presence by his side. No doubt he had deadlines to meet, demands from clients, and a heavy workload like everyone else. Yet he made time and sent his son an inviting happy-you’re-here-with-me vibe.

2.     Ayan’s dad paid attention to his son. He recognized Ayan’s knack for computers, patiently instructed him, and chose hands-on learning materials.

3.     Ayan was encouraged, not pushed, with a spirit of exploration and discovery, not stress and competition.

4.     Ayan was an active learner. It takes greater effort to figure out computer parts and sustain focus on a Microsoft book than it does to learn from videos and games. Ayan practiced and strengthened his voluntary attention.

5.     Ayan’s parents had the courage of their convictions. They acted on their knowledge that Ayan was too young to choose voluntary over involuntary attention. It's tough enough for an adult to reach for a Microsoft text instead of a video game.


To guide your child’s development of technological competence, be mindful of the difference between attention that’s captured by a screen (involuntary) and more effortful, self-directed attention (voluntary), like Ayan’s. As your children mature, help them grasp this important difference for themselves. Protect young children by encouraging voluntary attention, as Ayan’s parents did.

You don't need to be an IT specialist like Ayan's dad to guide your child. The two of you can go online and learn together. Ask your child to teach you his favorite games. Play them together, so you have common ground for an ongoing conversation about their effects, both good and bad.  From time to time, deconstruct digital media together. Look at posts, ads, and what makes a game addictive. Take apart a TV show the way Ayan disassembled an old computer.

will your child be technologically competent?

Limit your child’s screentime, with the goal of teaching your child the value of limiting screentime on his own. Keep in mind: Quite possibly, the most important technological competency your child can learn is to use the off button.


BBC on Ayan Qureshi
Wired on Ayan Qureshi
Raising children to have technological competence