Advice Column, Child, Parenting

The wonderful gift of boredom in children

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Never in the history of mankind have we been so bombarded by technology in the form of cellphones, tablets and computers. Cindy Glass, Owner and Co-Founder of Step Up Education Centres say,” We are a species with highly addictive personalities and we seem quite oblivious to the effects that this is having on our ability to learn and retain new information, concentrate on tasks, engage in creative, imaginative play and enjoy healthy human relationships. Our children spend many hours watching screens, hopping between apps and only needing to focus for seconds at a time, if at all. We are, quite literally, losing our minds!”

She adds that we are born with an innate ability and need to explore, learn, design, imagine and engage with our physical world. “We have bodies that can move and minds that can dream of the impossible and make it possible. There is no technology on earth that can replace the brilliance of a human mind, if it is allowed the opportunity to be used effectively.”

Children are born wanting to play and learn, but, even before they are able to express this genius, we put a screen in front of them.  Screen-time has become the new nanny of the 21st century and studies have shown that ‘she’ is the least effective way to encourage the wholistic development of a human being.

Cindy explains that in order for our brain to learn the essential skills of creativity and imagination, it needs to have space! Research has shown that too much screen time causes the human brain to become over-stimulated.  It does not have to do any work to receive the images and activities that are available at a touch of a button. Few, if any, critical thinking or problem-solving skills are required to mindlessly hop between apps, videos and games.  The mind is a muscle that needs exercising and engagement in order to develop and grow.

At the same time however, we know that Technology is here to stay. So. How do parents ensure that it is used wisely?   What would happen if you deliberately restricted the amount of screen time that your children were allowed to use? Many parents would flinch at the thought! ‘My child will be angry and worse, bored!’

Cindy recognises that this would be most parents concern but adds that it would only be for a week! “Children are so addicted to their screens that it may take a few days to adjust to finding other ways to engage with their world more effectively BUT, once boredom kicks in, the mind begins to wake up! The brain seeks to stimulate itself and looks for ways to create new scenarios in which to work. This is where imagination and creativity and new ideas begin. Art, music, reading, climbing the tree outside, having real human conversations, dancing, running, laughing, writing and designing are some of the essential life skills that will start developing as a result of being bored for a moment. The brain is forced to focus for longer periods of time and concentration skills are greatly enhanced!”

“As parents, it is our responsibility to ensure that we give our children opportunities to be without the world of addictive technology so that their minds, bodies and emotions can develop to their full potential. It is our responsibility, to take responsibility for how much time is spent in front of a screen. Do not fear boredom.  Allow it. You may just be surprised at the outcome!” Cindy concludes.

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