My son is bored. That’s probably not an uncommon complaint come mid-summer for a 13-year-old. The novelty of sleeping in has worn off along with the thrill of (nearly) unlimited TV availability.
You see, my son is a “doer.” He’s at his happiest participating in some physical activity: for instance, golf, swimming, or his latest new love, fishing. He will spend hours doing online research about the fish native to our area and then head to the local pond to try his luck. He practices his chipping and putting in my backyard. He’ll ride his bike, practice backyard archery, and craft things out of invasive bamboo.
The problem is that most of his favorite things are best done with someone else. However, your typical 13-year-old boy isn’t exactly known for his get up and go. There are at least 3 other kids my son’s age in our neighborhood, but he doesn’t spend a whole lot of time with them anymore. Why not? “All they ever want to do is mess around with their iPod Touch or Play Station.”
So columnist Barbara Kay got my attention when she wrote “In Praise of Boredom.” She argues that technology along with playdates and structured activities have wiped out childhood boredom. Why is this a bad thing? Kay recalls that bored kids used to read back in the “old days,” even if they were only reading comic books. I would go further and propose that boredom could lead to creativity and innovation, too. A bored child builds a play house out of empty boxes, writes and puts on a play, goes on a treasure hunt, or teaches himself everything there is to know about something–like fishing.
I’m not anti-technology. In fact, I think I will ask for an iPhone for my birthday. But I see too many children (and, yes, teens are children) chained to it, missing out on everything else the world has to offer, including human contact. Streaming music and video, gaming–these are all using someone else’s creativity. They don’t require imagination or a desire for learning.
So in case you are reading, my son, I’m not too troubled by your boredom. I just wish you could get a few friends to be bored with you.