Is your life a wall of sound and digital images? Is your TV on as soon as you’re up and the radio playing on the way to work? Do your kids play video games or look at iPads or watch television after school until bedtime? When was the last time you put your phone down for an hour and didn’t look to see if anyone had texted you or updated their Facebook status? When was the last time you sat in a quiet room and read a book or had a conversation without something on in the background?
We have all become so accustomed to media overload in our everyday lives that sometimes sitting in a quiet space starts to feel uncomfortable. We aren’t sure exactly what to do. We don’t feel entertained or productive. We are left with nothing but our own thoughts, and frankly sometimes that is uncomfortable too.
Kids don’t have to get bored any more. They don’t have to come whining to parents begging for something to do. They don’t have as many chores as previous generations did and they don’t have much beyond school work and sports to encourage a sense of mastery and accomplishment. Creativity and imagination are slowly going the way of the buffalo.
It’s hard sometimes as harried parents not to rely on music or Wii or TV or an iPad to help entertain our kids while we make dinner or do laundry or pay bills or clean. Yet by relying on such stimulating and often passive media, our children are increasingly unable to entertain themselves. Perhaps worse, our children have less and less time with just their thoughts to stimulate them. And frankly we adults aren’t much better off.
Even if constant media exposure was beneficial in some way (which it isn’t) doing too much of anything, even a good thing, is not healthy. It crowds out a more diverse and rich life and in the case of a child, replaces things that in the long run may lead to a much more creative and broad world view. Digging in the dirt or building a snow fort or making cookies from scratch or building with Legos or drawing a picture expand children’s minds in ways different than media can.
I’m not suggesting that all media is bad but if you never really have a break, other things wither.
This year, I encourage each of us (adults and kids alike) to spend an hour a couple of times a week technology-free and see what happens. Play a card game, do a jigsaw puzzle, read a book, go for a walk (without an iPod), or just sit and do nothing and allow your brain to just be. It may not result in finding a cure for cancer or inventing a new product or even getting the house clean but it may just enrich your life and teach your kids that being bored is OK and may be an opportunity to think about something new.