Allowing your kids to experience “the presence of an absence” is a parental duty you may never have thought about before. 

But in our distraction-filled digital times, boredom can be a boon to kids’ creativity, mood-regulation and personal growth.

Is it true, as some of us glibly insist, that “there is no such thing as boredom – only boring people?” Admittedly,  it’s a good line. But the science suggests otherwise. Boredom is real. And not only real but potentially really important to our kids’ capacity to think and create and achieve mastery.

Like a fallow field, the mind of a “bored” child may seem unproductive – but deep transformations are taking place just below the surface.

Today, our always-connected offspring process more information in a day than previous generations did in a lifetime. In some ways, boredom has never been less of a problem – and more of an opportunity.

Have you ever noticed that the more “boredom busters” you supply, the lower your child’s threshold seems to go?  It’s like a boredom arms race. As stockpiles of gadgetry, toys, lessons and equipment mount up – so does the threat of annihilation.  It’s not just your kid. It’s all of us. That’s how boredom works.

What does your child really mean when she moans that she is “bored” – or flings the judgment “BORE-ing!” at any life experience that does not involve a wifi signal and an on-off button? 

Have you ever noticed that the more “boredom busters” you supply, the lower your child’s threshold seems to go?  It’s like a boredom arms race.

It’s a tough one, because the term “boredom” has become a catch-all for a bewildering array of emotional states, ranging from confusion to fear to hostility. Here are a few fun facts that will help you get under the hood of this most common of kid complaints.

  • Did you know that kids who complain that they are “bored” at school or in any other environment may actually be feeling overwhelmed, not under-stimulated? Like the rest of us, kids tend to shut down when they feel out of their depth. Describing their feelings as “boredom” rather than “fear” is a common form of self-protection - and a way of saving face.
  • Boredom is often the glaze we apply to an underlying lack of understanding or insight. Abstract painting, for example, is “boring” to anyone who assumes the purpose of art is to represent the world we recognise. Geometry is “boring” if you never get to the last stage of the proof. 
  • Children’s boredom can quickly develop into a power play. If you’ve ever wondered, a trifle guiltily, if managing your child’s boredom was at some level a control issue - a gauntlet thrown down as a challenge to your parental mettle or even to the quality of your love … well, wonder no more. It is often exactly that. Not in some conniving, conscious sense. But subtly, unconsciously.  


Cricketing legend Sir Don Bradman credited an under-stimulating bush childhood with his astounding skill as a batsman. Hitting a ball with a stick was literally all he did for fun for tens of thousands of hours. Deprivation? Maybe. But just think how a Nintendo Wii might have changed the course of sporting history.

  • What we dismiss as “doing nothing” or “staring into space” was once esteemed as “reverie.”  And it is that distinctive type of downtime – a kind of mindful mindlessness - that is especially at risk in the dataclysm of our children’s increasingly hyper-connected lives.

“The capacity to be bored can be a developmental achievement for the child,” says acclaimed British psychotherapist and author Adam Phillips. 

“In the muffled, sometimes irritable confusion of boredom the child is reaching to a recurrent sense of emptiness out of which his real desire can crystallize.”

Depriving a child of this space – which we dishonor with the off-hand designation “downtime” – is a serious (though understandable) mistake.


With Family Zone, you can keep your children's tech-time healthy and happy, on every device, everywhere.  

Create a home where your digital family can thrive, and start your free trial today.




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Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Excessive Device Usage, online safety, boredom

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