The declining concentration span of modern kids has been a popular topic in the media for a few years now. The theory holds that because the pace of our lives has increased so much, our attention cannot be held for as long as it once could.
There's definitely something in this- I see it in myself. Rather than read through a whole newspaper I tend to just briefly scan the news headlines and perhaps look at a couple of articles that interest me. I suppose this is the nature of the Internet. It encourages us to flit from one thing to another rather than read through a long report. (I'd like to see a quantitative analysis of this though- by what factor has the pace of our lives increased over the last 50 years say, and has our attention span decreased at the same rate?)
This article claims that boys can only read for 100 pages before losing interest. It doesn't say whether they were just fed up with what they were reading though. I remember being bored to death having to read Macbeth, A Tale of Two Cities etc 30 years ago and I was an academic kid. I wouldn't want to read Jane Austen now, never mind when I was 13, when I would much rather have read a book of war stories or alien invasions.
I can't help but wonder whether we put children off reading for life by forcing them to study deathly dull books that they don't want to read. Actually, do we call these books 'classics' just because they are old, rather than for the quality of their story lines? Not being an English teacher I have no idea whether this has been properly looked into. (Another opportunity for some PhD student).
Maybe these stories were good in their time but their old fashioned English and settings that we cannot relate to, prevent them from grabbing our attention nowadays. One thing's for certain, they aren't going to compete with a Playstation.
Either way, I suppose the most important question is: how do we lengthen children's attention spans and are they really that important?