Overplugged: By Killing Boredom You Could Be Killing Creativity

Having a device in hand means you're never bored. It's often offered up as a quick solution when a child is bored, but is tech killing creativity?

Boredom gets a bad name these days.

For a child to say, “I’m bored” is often seen as a symptom of poor planning, as opposed to being viewed as natural occurrence. Instead of embracing boredom as a normal part of life, it is often met with immediate ways to eliminate it.

Having a device in your hand means you’re never bored, so it is usually offered up as a quick solution to the problem. A smartphone or tablet is a gateway to an endless array of entertainment. Any assertion of boredom can be easily eliminated through a screen. Are your kids feeling bored? Zap it away!

Zapping Boredom Is Sapping Thought

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World published in 1932, the author portrayed a future where citizens welcome a constant state of pleasure through technology. Huxley later remarked that humans seem to have an infinite desire towards distractions. If a person was ever not entertained and felt restless, that momentary feeling could be quickly zapped away. Thought was kept at bay.

Are we doing the same thing with our devices? Perhaps we don’t want kids to be alone with their thoughts because we ourselves are uncomfortable without a steady source of entertainment.

Alone With Our Thoughts

A recent University of Virginia study found that 25% of women and 67% of men would rather get a jolt of electricity than be left alone quietly to think for 15 minutes. This was AFTER all participants stated that they would pay money not to be shocked by electricity.

We seem to fear being alone with our thoughts, and also fear having our children alone with their thoughts. Zapping away boredom may be the path of least resistance, but it is not the path towards better thinking. The real problem is not boredom, but our insistence on eliminating every moment of it.

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

That line from author J.R.R. Tolkien is featured on a lot of bumper stickers, but it goes well beyond being a catchy phrase. Our children need to have their brain both wander and wonder. Instead of passively consuming creative content, we should promote an active imagination that creates new content.

Children, like adults, need adequate mental space in order for new thoughts to arise. When you consider your own youth, you probably look fondly on the moments where your boredom spawned a wild adventure. It was those times that we were alone with our own thoughts that cultivated our creativity. Are we eliminating those moments for today’s kids?

It’s Time to Start Embracing Boredom

Nearly every parent imagines their child being a genius. But do we ever stop and think what truly leads to that level of intellectual prowess? It would be nice be able to turn a child into an Einstein by having them stare at a screen, but one should also step back and consider the man behind the picture of genius.

Is Your Child Like Einstein?

Einstein was known for being a daydreamer. Looking at the window during classes, he was viewed as aloof. Teachers didn’t peg him as a genius. But in those moments of daydreaming, his brain was wandering and wondering. His most famous work, the theory of relativity, derived from a daydream where he imagined running beside a sunbeam to the edge of the universe.

When we visualize a creative person in our mind, we don’t visualize someone who is overplugged with constant tech use. We imagine Isaac Newtown sitting under an apple tree, conceiving of gravity. Today we have replaced Newton’s apple with an Apple iPhone, and may be replacing moments of daydreaming with curated content.

It’s time to take away the stigma of boredom and embrace those slower, analog aspects of life, for what they are: a springboard for imagination.

How often are your kids letting their brain wander and wonder?

Published on: April 10, 2015
About the Author
Photo of David Ryan Polgar

David Ryan Polgar is trying to change our relationship with technology. He brings his background as an attorney and college professor to the task. He is a contributor to the Family Online Safety Institute, iKeepSafe, and The Good Men Project, along with Copilot Family —a startup offering parents better control of their child’s tech use.

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