Student attention spans hooked on mobile apps and games

Alex Stenman, media editor

It’s no secret that students at Edina High School are distracted easily; the strength of teenage attention spans vary. As the seconds become minutes and the minutes become hours, students often become bored with teacher instruction and resort to using technology to entertain themselves and help get them through the day. In this generation, the device of choice has become the mobile phone due to its accessibility, and game developers have been taking notice.

Mobile games have come and gone, and the practice of picking up a game only to stop playing it a few weeks later is nothing new for EHS students. First there were games like Cookie Clicker and Bad Eggs Online, both desktop computer games ported over to mobile devices to the delight of students and dismay of teachers. Recently, games like Mario Kart Tour, Call of Duty Mobile, and the ever popular Fortnite have topped the mobile charts. But what makes games like these different from ones in the past, and why are they so addicting to play?

“[Mobile] games thrive on short term satisfaction,” senior Michael Dalsin said. “They become addicting when you can pick it up and find success quickly. It’s different from something like a PC game, which usually requires more time and effort before getting results.”

Modern mobile games are usually free to play, but often have a built-in system of microtransactions. A player can complete an action instantly or earn randomized rewards if they gamble real money, which can lead to some competitive players gaining an inherent advantage if they cough up a few dollars. Developers are raking in millions every year from the sheer amount of these microtransactions completed every day.

Teachers at EHS are not typically trained in ways to handle and maintain the attention of distracted students, so it can often be a challenging endeavor full of trial-and-error for teachers to find a way to keep the class focused on learning.

“At the beginning of every class period, I tell students to ‘hide their phones,’” 10th grade English teacher Jessica Kramar said. “During this school in particular it’s been difficult to follow through as generally students choose to just ignore it. It’s not even something we have rules or training for that are generally enforced by every teacher.”

The future of gaming is showing signs of shifting towards a more mobile oriented experience. PC game publisher Blizzard has been dominating the mobile charts with their virtual card game Hearthstone for several years, and only recently are competitors like Electronic Arts and Riot Games taking notice of the value of mobile apps and making a push for publicity and profit. As the market becomes more saturated, an increasing amount of students are pulled into the temptation of convenient distraction, resulting in less attention in the classroom and teachers at a loss on how to respond.