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By Angela Bergman
When I was a kid, I spent hours on my own, playing, exploring, reading, and daydreaming. Other kids had cable TV. We had rabbit ears and three channels at best. Other kids had computers with color monitors and a variety of games. We had a computer with no color monitor and one game—and it was an educational game at that. Other kids had Atari’s and Nintendo’s. I had pet rabbits, cats and dogs, books, a bike, and cross country skis.
I know it sounds like I’m about as old as a dinosaur, but I grew up in the 1980s. I also grew up in the country so my playmates were few and far between. And by far between, I mean they lived many miles from me. I looked forward to school since that was the time I got to see my friends. But outside of school, my time was spent on my own, entertaining myself or opening a book to provide a temporary escape from my mundane life.
Kids These Days
Kids today have a much different childhood than the one I experienced. At least my kids do. We have fifty channels available on a large, flat screened TV. Some are even available in HD but I can’t tell the difference. We have two home computers, three laptops, and numerous electronic devices between the seven of us that can keep us entertained for hours if we so choose. We have shelves full of books that are rarely read. And the internet gives us unlimited access to games and movies, whenever we want them. We can even download them and take them with us out on the road.
Friends and playmates live all around us. We used to make playdates, but now we chat with them online. Our yard is slightly bigger than a postage stamp and it rarely gets used anymore. The dogs wait for one of “their boys” to take them for a walk, pet them or play with them. The nearby park that buzzed with life twenty years ago now sees only a handful of families a day.
What has happened to us? Are we all spending our downtime staring at screens, waiting for the minute we can leave work or school so we can go home and swipe left, right, up, down until we find the thing we need to fill up our free time?
What’s one of the worst things you’ll hear as a parent? Maybe second to the sound of a kid vomiting in the middle of the night—in their bed—the worst sound for most parents is the whiny complaint, “I’m bored!”
Don’t you hate hearing those words? Doesn’t it drive you crazy? Back when I was a kid, the last thing I would do is run and tell my mom, “I’m bored.” She would immediately set me straight with a list of chores that I’d have to do. But today, what do most parents do? We don’t hand them a book to read or a blank page to doodle on. We may even feel like we can’t send them out to the backyard or down the street to the park. “It’s just not safe!”
And we dare not send them to their room to let them figure it out on their own. Oh no, we can’t let our children figure out that being bored is a good thing. Say what? Yes, being bored is a good thing. Let me tell you why.
Being Bored is like Taking Vitamins for the Brain
There are benefits to being bored. Boredom builds conversation skills and creativity.
Remember when you were a kid and you’d have a friend over and eventually, if you spent enough time together, one of you would say, “I’m bored.” You’d lie down on the grass, on the couch, on the floor, and start talking. Before long, one of you would come up with something hilarious and you’d be rolling around in stitches. Surely I’m not the only one who this happened to!
Or maybe you and your friend decide to put a new spin on an old game. You take out the old Snakes and Ladders game and decide to slide down the ladders and climb up the snakes. It’s not very original but you get the idea. Not only are you being creative and working together with another human, but you’re creating memories for years to come.
What would happen if your child was bored and he began thinking about something that happened at school that day. Something uncomfortable where he didn’t have the right words to say. Suddenly, the best comeback pops into his head. He practices saying it, imagining how they would have felt if he had only thought of the right words in the moment. A situation that made him feel bad now bolsters his confidence. All because he wasn’t in front of a screen, numbing his bad day with a game.
All Screens, No Fun
I am not anti-screen. There are some good things about computers and other electronic devices. But for the most part, our children are using these things to entertain themselves to the detriment of themselves.
When they’re constantly being entertained, they’re not learning important self-soothing skills. They no longer know how to properly deal with stress and anger. Instead, they pick up a device in an attempt to forget about what happened and feel better. I know, because I have done this too.
Another problem with screens and technology is that it reinforces our desire for instant gratification. We are in charge—if all goes right. We can swipe away things we don’t want to see. We can “X” out. We can google anything we want and get instant answers. We can be rewarded by achieving a new level or gaining a like or a friend or a follow.
The problem with technology is whenever we need it, it’s there. We don’t even need to dial up or wait for pages to load anymore. Technology feeds our need for instant access to everything and we have lost the art of waiting.
What Are We Teaching Our Kids?
If I’ve convinced you that your children should spend less time on technology and more time managing themselves without a device, we first have to look at what we’re modeling. I too am guilty of turning on my phone and checking for the latest news on Facebook and Instagram as soon as supper is done or when I’m standing at the grocery line waiting to pay for my items. I don’t read nearly as much as I used to, but I’m working on it.
I know my kids are watching me. They don’t miss much, especially my less than ideal habits. If I can’t turn off my screens and spend a few minutes standing patiently in line, if I can’t find something other than watching a show before I go to bed, if I have forgotten what it’s like to have my own creative thoughts because I constantly turn to technology to soothe and entertain, how can I expect my child to do be different?
Our world is changing and we still expect the generation we’re raising to have manners, treat each other with respect, and express themselves intelligently. But if we’re letting them get away with as much screen time as possible, how are they going to learn these things?
This month we are giving away an amazing book package! Books that will make you say “WOW! I remember that!”Ultimate Nostalgia Book and Toy Giveaway
Featured Image by Kate Williams via Unsplash.