Are devices robbing children of the riches that come from boredom?

I am sure many of us who have reached a certain age would say we regret our  neglect of the creative and productive activities that we used to pursue so enthusiastically both indoors and out of doors in the days before social media and laptops entered our lives.

I do not believe this yearning is just the age-old wail of despair that so often accompanies the gathering of years.  I think we are filling our brains so full with material produced by others these days, that more and more of us are unlikely to ever delve within our own brains to find what is special there. Our artistic and creative selves lie dormant. We are rarely bored, so we hardly ever experience the delight that comes from imagination harnessed in the service of ending boredom. We are also increasingly unlikely to sit by a stream, watch a flight of birds migrating – or get enough sleep. We are too addicted to our devices!

Technology does enrich our lives in many ways, but we must beware of its tendency to also impoverish us. Reaping the benefits of technology without suffering its evils requires self-awareness and self-discipline. We need to know when to turn machines off and we need to have the will power to do so.

The schools would do well to consider how to foster the capacities for self-awareness and self-control in students in the face of the growing use of technology in schools. I believe these character traits should be taught through the curriculum, much as we now agree grit should be explicitly taught. The next generation will thank us if we teach them how to resist device addiction, so that they can experience boredom, and from it learn more about themselves.



Kathreen Harrison

About Kathreen Harrison

Kathreen Harrison is a public school teacher in Maine. She has a master’s degree from Bank Street College of Education and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College. She has worked in a variety of schools in New York and Maine in a number of capacities – French teacher, gifted and talented teacher, elementary school teacher, and curriculum coordinator for island schools. She has lived in Maine for 20 years and has a particular interest in school reform.