Tim Burke: Kids really aren’t bored in our hyper-connected world

We live in a world that is connected to virtually everything 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Today’s children can easily access technology and are constantly being stimulated. Parents are tapping into that technology and use it as a “free” babysitting service when in fact, it’s not free.

The payment is with our kids’ nervous systems, with their attention, and with their ability for delayed gratification. Compared to virtual reality, everyday life is boring. Kids are constantly being bombarded with graphic explosions and special effects.

After hours of virtual reality, processing information in a classroom becomes increasingly challenging for our kids because their brains are getting used to the elevated levels of stimulation that video games provide. The inability to process lower levels of stimulation leaves kids vulnerable to academic challenges. Technology also disconnects us emotionally from our children and our families.

Children today live in a world of instant gratification and limited social interaction. The ability to delay gratification is one of the key factors for future success. We have the best intentions to make our children happy, but unfortunately, we make them happy now and miserable in the long term. To be able to delay gratification means to be able to function under stress.

Our children are gradually becoming less equipped to deal with even minor stressors, which eventually become huge obstacles to their success in life. We are all busy, so we give our kids digital gadgets and make them “busy” too.

Kids used to play outside, where, in unstructured natural environments, they learned and practiced their social skills. Unfortunately, technology replaced the outdoor time. Children now spend far more time sitting with a screen in their hands than up and moving around.

Using technology, we have created an artificial fun world for our children. There are no dull moments. The moment it becomes quiet, we run to entertain them again, because otherwise, we feel that we are not doing our parenting duty.

We live in two separate worlds.They have their “fun” world, and we have our “work” world. Why aren’t children helping us in the kitchen or with laundry? Why don’t they tidy up their toys? This is basic monotonous work that trains the brain to be workable and function under “boredom,” which is the same “muscle” that is required to be eventually teachable at school.

Children need some boredom to arrive at an understanding of who they are. And just as important, children need boredom to awaken their own internal drives. The removal of a constant outside stimulant allows children to develop their own imagination and creativity.

We need to allow our children to become “bored” and to find time to think and interact without constant outside stimulus. Set aside time where they have no access to phones, computers, or TV but instead must come up with things to do on their own. Monitor what they do have access to when they are tapped into technology.

Teach your children to participate in physical and mental activities that don’t involve staring at a screen. Think of what is good for them and not what they want or don’t want. Parenting is a hard job. You need to be creative to make them do what is good for them because, most of the time, that is the exact opposite of what they want.

Teach them turn-taking, sharing, losing/winning, compromising, complimenting others, using “please” and “thank you.”

Your children will thank you when they grow up to be happy productive adults.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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