Don't deprive your children — of boredom

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

“I’m bored!”

It won’t be long until parents throughout Southwest Nebraska will hear those words, emanating from the mouth of a child who only a week or two before was happy to be free of an environment designed to give his brain a full-throttle workout.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of activities to keep McCook-area children busy over the summer months, diamond sports, YMCA activities and many others.

But when they’re not being shuttled from one activity to another, or when mom and dad are at work or busy with their own chores, those same children default to “screen mode.”

Screen mode is nothing new — most Baby Boomers and beyond grew up with a glowing television dominating their living room and free time.

The advent of iPads, tablets, laptops and smartphones has made screens even more ubiquitous —stand in line for a minute, or let the conversation lull for 30 seconds, and out come the smartphones.

It’s bad enough when adults are the ones staring at their screens, but for kids, especially young children, we’re still discovering all of the damage too much screen time can cause.

Obesity, sleep disturbances, hyperactivity, emotional and behavioral problems, problems with peers and language delays in children younger than 3 have been reported.

It’s easy for haggard parents to fall back on an electronic babysitter, but by giving in, they’re depriving their child of an important motivation for learning — boredom.

“Boredom is great for kits,” said Jean Rogers, screen-time program manager with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood told the Public News Service-Nebraska

“They’re able to create, they’re able to problem solve and learn how to cooperate with each other to figure out what to do,” she said.

Her group has organized Screen-Free Week April 30-May 6, to encourage families to rediscover life outside the digital world. It’s an important issue; while experts suggest no more than two hours a day of screen time, preschool children on an average spend more than 41⁄2 hours a day in front of a screen, seven-plus for older kids.

Rather than simply unplugging, the group offers some helpful ideas for luring children away from their screens. Check them out here http://bit.ly/2wbpMuL or screenfree.org.

“You may have complaints, especially from older kids. But most often, we hear that families love it — they tough it out at the beginning, but at the end, they all love it.

“We don’t want parents to feel judged; that’s the last thing. There are so many things to worry about when you’re a parent and that’s why it’s just about reducing,” she told the PNN-NE. “We know that parents need it to pay bills, they need it for work; we know kids need it for school. But it’s about taking that break and feeling what that’s like.”

In reality, taking a break from screens is just as difficult for adults as it is for children, but every bit as important.

It turns out, boredom may be just as valuable for us adults as it is for kids.

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