The universal problem of distraction

Andy Crouch says our addiction to screens isn’t just a problem for “digital natives” – it’s a problem we all have.



Andy Crouch says our addiction to screens isn’t just a problem for “digital natives” – it’s a problem we all have.

Andy Crouch answers the question: “Teachers and parents are always at us to be off our screens, but surely this problem is not limited to young people? 

Suggested Activities: 

  1. Think-Pair-Share:
    1. What is your initial reaction to the video?
    2. Have you been in a situation where you were trying to talk to someone, but they were distracted by their phone? How did that make you feel?
    3. Do you think screen-addiction is a bigger problem with your generation than with other generations? Explain your answer.
  2. Read Barney Zwartz’s article ‘Pay attention, lest we forget how’.
    1. Complete the Values-Identities-Actions Thinking Routine.
    2. What is your reaction to the examples Barney gives to illustrate his point: “Encounters with Jesus in the gospels are luminous with this quality of attention – all of them.”
  3. Watch the TED Talk ‘The art of paying attention’.
    1. In pairs, do the activity at the start of the video. Then reflect on your experience: Did you notice things about your partner that you didn’t notice before? What might be different if we approached all our interactions with people with the same level of focus and attention that we used for this activity?


This is a problem everyone has. And I actually think most of us have been in a situation, not just with our peers but with people we thought we could trust, and we realised they’re not actually paying attention to us because there’s this screen that’s diverting them. And it’s actually why we all end up using the screen so much – we learn we can’t quite trust one another to be present. I’d really encourage anyone in that moment, whoever it is, to take the risk of saying, “Hey, could you actually attend to me?” It’s a real risk to ask for that – from your parents, from your friends, from your teachers sometimes – but almost always that other person, they really do want to pay attention to you, but we know how it is, they’ve just gotten distracted. But this is something all of us need to call each other to a better way of being human together, and just say, “Hey, let’s set a higher bar for how we’re together.” And yeah, these are useful devices, but they’re not meant to replace relationships. But everybody’s got to relearn this – parents and kids.