Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Monday, 8 March 2010

Do kids still get bored these days?

I had a great childhood. I had plenty of friends and lots of toys and games as well as computers like my ZX Spectrum and later Acorn Electron and Atari ST. I often found myself immersed in programming or other projects which took lots of time as well as playing outside with friends.

However I did used to find that during holidays and some other times e.g. when the weather was bad that I had very little to do and would get bored.

From where I am sitting now that seems like a different world. There is far too little time in the day for me to pursue everything I would like to. There are loads of blogs, newspapers and other online content that I want to read and that I will be lucky to even make a dent in. Every time I find myself researching something online there are literally dozens of links each time that I could follow that would lead me into other interesting areas that I would also like to have time to look into but often don't. I have a plethora of books stacked up that I have not found time to read yet. Not to mention the thousands of hours of TV that I can access whenever I want through the iPlayer and other gateways that I also struggle to find time for. On top of that I have a business that I run as well as this blog and contributions to other blogs, the House of Comments podcast and other audio stuff that I do for The Pod Delusion. I am an active member of the local party and I also help out other local parties in other constituencies. I am also married and my wife and I try to spend a decent amount of quality time with each other especially at weekends. In addition to all of this I have lots of friends and family generally dotted around the country with whom I am never able to spend enough time although we do all try.

Basically what I am saying is that I am struggling to remember what it is like to be bored. Yet I recall this feeling happening a fair bit when I was a kid.

I don't have any children of my own yet but I was wondering from those people who do whether that boredom thing still happens a lot given the huge explosion in things for them to do. I appreciate not all kids will have access to all of the technology but many will have access to a fair bit of it.

So my question is, do kids still get bored these days?


Michael Gribben said...

Yes endlessly, just because there are endless possibilities doesn't mean you can think of them.

My holidays are spent in rotation from the computer, TV and xbox.

Just because there is still stuff on the web to read, doesn't mean you don't get extremely tired of it after a few hours.

Saying that, I can't imagine how bad it must have been without any options for entertainment to turn down.

Foregone Conclusion said...

Speaking as a young person, yes.

The Internet is an endless resource, but few of us actually leave the circuit of the few sites we visit. True, there might be something fantastically interesting on the web, but we never find it, or we choose not to look. For an analogy, your house might (or might not) have had books that you never read, no matter how bored you got. Human nature is contrary like that. I think boredom is something natural, no matter how stimulating one's environment is- indeed, it might even be a human need.

Charles Anderson said...

I have had the same thought myself. I remember being occasionally bored well into my twenties. Then I acquired a house, and a family, and numerous other diversions and responsibilities, and frankly can't remember the last time I didn't know what to do with myself.

However, from observations of my 9 year old son, I can confirm that children do still get bored. In the case of my boy, the boredom usually kicks in shortly after we tell him that he's spent enough time staring at a screen for a while. But even when he is allowed unrestricted access to the PC, Wii and TV, he still gets bored eventually. Does he have too few things to occupy him, or too much free time?

Considering how many other toys and games he has available, and thinking back to my own youth, I believe it's the latter. My problem was not that I didn't have enough things I could do, but that I didn't have enough things I had to do. Without those jobs and responsibilities that nowadays chew up my free time into such pitifully small chunks, I felt like I had all the leisure time in the world. And how can you really appreciate something that you can also take for granted?

Jennie Rigg said...

I rarely got bored as a kid, because I was a total bookworm, and I lived (still live) in a house which had more books in it than one person could ever read in a lifetime. I suspect my small person will be the same. She devours books in the same way I did, and has three full bookshelves in her room, plus we have an entire wall of books in the living room, and a bookcase in the bathroom, and that's only about a third of the books we as a family own, given that I still have loads in the loft at my ex's and my mum's house.

asquith said...

I don't know about kids but I know I am permanently feeling guilty about not reading enough, not clicking through to the full report, being inattentive, etc. It isn't consoling to think that I work far harder than the average person because I'm not the average person!

Maybe it's just me- I feel the same way about not exercising enough, eating badly etc. so I must just be set up to never be satisfied.

I suppose we are just drowning in information. Our grandfathers didn't have access to this much information about the world & I don't think they cared. But with what's available, great works of literature, thought, & up to date & in depth information, I feel every night as though I haven't earned the right to go to bed.

I do think, though, that for a child there's no substitute for reading a book. I feel sorry for non-readers because they will probably never become readers in later life, it just doesn't happen if you don't get the reading bug young as I did. These world will just be denied to them forever, & they won't find them on the internet because they'll be too busy talking bollocks on Bebo & going on get rich quick scam sites (not to generalise, but).

So I am strongly supportive of public libraries, if there is no viable way of getting the market to do it then the state should provide them as it is an investment & an extension of opportunity to those who, like me, have parents who can't afford to be always buying books.

I also take the view that children should be exposed to nature, & this can be done via schools in daytrips etc, which I don't think they should miss out on if their parents are poor.

Even if the parents are the most reprehensible scroungers on earth, the kids should be given access to daytrips etc. because it's all the more important to broaden their horizons so they can see something other than the immediate & won't grow up to be that way.

IMHO, one of the ways on which "greens" fail is that it's very hard to create an interest in the natural world amongst those who never developed it as children. They are the ones who might fall for heavy-handed & statist schemes, often of doubtful worth, but won't bellyfeel the importance of ancient woodland or certain species of bird, etc. etc.

I would say it is best to use a fairly light touch, children will absorb whatever information is put before them & quite often they'll grow up in your image without any conscious project to do so. Which of course goes on into criticism of hothousing, enforced activities such as the stereotypical pushy parents love, etc.

You may like to make a mental note of the book "Under Pressure" by Carl Honore for if you ever father any kids yourself. You'll not agree with everything he says but he is a thinker worth engaging with.

Oranjepan said...

tired, confused, lacking in inmagination... I was many things at different times, but I never recognised boredom as a state of being - though I have to say I found the company of any particularly dull and dreary people telling me how wonderful they were was a dreadful bore.
It's enough to make a guy immerse himself in a good book, or a bottle.

Alex said...

Well I'm 20, and I've only had reliable access to the internet for a few years, so I guess my upcoming anecdote is relevant here.

I absolutely agree with every word. The sheer amount of information available is staggering. Library of Alexandria eat your heart out.

I think it's fair to say that we are fortunate to live in this Age.

Dingdongalistic said...

Yes, and actually, I don't think that's such a bad thing.

Being constantly bored is of course horrible. But occasional boredom stimulates the imagination. As a kid, whenever I was at a loose end, and unable to follow my normal amusements (such as being on a car journey with no books to read or something like that), I would invent things to pass the time, such as games or thinking up stories. This isn't of course to say that I always succeeded, but I'm sure it helped keep my mind active. Boredom can stimulate imagination.

Whereas having too many amusements simply means you don't get the most out of them, and thus you can be bored without realising it. I've come to realise that when I've spent too much time on the internet, I've actually been bored quite a lot of the time, and end the day feeling worse than when I've been out, with fewer activities (try finding many interesting shops in Herefordshire!), but with a day filled with greater changes of scene.