As July begins to wind down, summertime boredom starts to creep in for both children and adults. Don’t rush to give your kids a new activity, however. Studies have shown that boredom may not be the worst thing for your child.
The Melbourne Child Psychology Service said that dealing with boredom prompts children to find ways to entertain themselves, and come up with clever and entertaining activities to pass the time. This fosters both a creative imagination and strong problem-solving skills, so it is better for a parent to provide their child with resources when they come up with an activity, rather than outright give the child an idea.
Dr. Stephanie Lee, director of the ADHD and Behavior Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute, also defended boredom. “Life requires us to manage our frustrations and regulate our emotions when things aren’t going our way, and boredom is a great way to teach that skill.”
One study from the Academy of Management explored the effect boredom had on a person’s creativity, by giving two groups a prompt on excuses for being tardy. The difference here? One group had spent their time sorting beans by color before being given the prompt, until the participants were thoroughly bored. The second group had participated in a much more interesting activity before the prompt meeting.
The two groups’ performances were significantly different, as the group who had been subject to the boring task of sorting beans presented more creative answers than the second group, both in quality and quantity.
Experts have said for years that constant mental stimulation inhibits our minds from being able to idle, making it more difficult to brainstorm and reflect. Professor Jonny Smallwood at the University of York spoke to the “Note to Self” podcast. “There’s a close link between originality, novelty and creativity … and these sort of spontaneous thoughts that we generate when our minds are idle,” Smallwood said.
Researcher Sandi Mann at the University of Central Lancashire agreed, saying, “You come up with really great stuff when you don’t have that easy, lazy, junk food diet of the phone to scroll all the time.”
A fall 2021 study from Piper Sandler found that 87% of teens own an iPhone. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, teenagers average up to nine hours of screen time each day, and Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that they need roughly 9-9.5 hours of sleep each night.
Quartz reports that giving adolescents too much to do during the summer may even prevent them from discovering new interests. Child psychologist Lyn Fry told Quartz that as adults, we fill our leisure time with activities that make us feel happy and fulfilled. By giving children an easy escape from boredom, we prevent them from learning this skill that they will need later in life.
“If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves,” Fry said.