Are our children bored? If so, how do they respond when they “have nothing to do”? 

Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review and co-author of the new book How to Raise a Reader, had this to say: “Boredom leads to flights of fancy. But ultimately, to self-discipline. To resourcefulness. The ability to handle boredom, not surprisingly, is correlated with the ability to focus and to self-regulate. Research has shown that people with attention disorders are particularly prone to boredom. It makes sense that in a hyper-stimulating world, what at first seems captivating now feels less so; what was once mildly diverting may now be flat-out dull.“

But there is more. According to Professor John D. Eastwood, associate professor of psychology at York University in Ontario Canada “…boredom is an agonizing, restless desire to be connected with something meaningful. What people are really searching for is a way to unplug and enjoy down time. In an environment where we are constantly over-stimulated, it’s hard to find ways to engage when the noise shuts down.”

These observations make me to think about how technology is sometimes used as a way to escape boredom, while at the same time, its careless use may actually result in the increase of boredom. As educators, we try our best to remember that technology is a tool — a means, not an end.  When technology is used thoughtfully, learning comes alive. At other times, face-to-face interactions, time to think, using our hands to write or create, or moving our bodies are better choices. Our aim as teachers is to be deliberate as we design instruction. By explaining our choices to our students, we hope they will learn to be deliberate in their choices, too. We hope they will learn not to automatically default to their technology when they are bored, but question their choices. While the messages of today’s world may often seem to be tipped in favor of the “quick fix” of electronics as a cure for boredom, together we can help our children understand that there are other ways besides technology to connect with something meaningful.

-Cynthia