We live in an age where e-readers, laptops, computers and, increasingly, mobile phones provide almost limitless access to information.

So why are our children's reading levels dropping to record lows?

That's the paradox highlighted by the release of the latest Progress in International Reading Literacy Study which shows New Zealand has slipped 10 places.

Interestingly, children in the highest socio-economic group also dropped much more sharply than others.

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There are some theories about why this downward trend in reading skills is happening.

Some say the findings show the previous government's fixation on National Standards was misplaced; others blame it on parents spending too much time on smartphones instead of reading to their kids.

Jane Martin, a teacher at decile 7 Three Kings School in Auckland, says parents are not talking to kids like they used to.

"You have parents sitting in silence on their cellphones, and the children all have phones at a younger age, so they are not so engaged in conversation. You have time-poor parents perhaps not reading to their children at night."

The picture she paints is concerning, if not alarming familiar to many.

Yes, the internet is an excellent source of information, but it is also a fantastic distraction. It has the power to connect people at a global level; while disconnecting them from those closest.

Children, it seems, are paying the price for the sudden shift in how the world consumes information and our dwindling attention spans.