Why not bored and brilliant kids?
If you’re like me you’ve been listening on public radio for the last couple of weeks to a “New Tech City” challenge called Bored and Brilliant, focused on getting people to stop checking their phones for email, twitter, and games. The idea is that “your most creative moments happen when you’re bored,” so try to let yourself be bored. The challenge ended yesterday.
I liked the challenge, since I’ve been on record that I’d like to be bored for the last couple of decades (very unsuccessfully!). It’s a constant goal of mine, and I thought it was obvious that boredom creates moments of creativity.
That’s not to say I don’t get addicted to games on my phone – curse you Candy Crush! – but I do delete them with regularity. And I always cherish the couple of days when I’ve lost my phone but before I get my new one. Sweet freedom!
Anyhoo, two points. First, the challenge didn’t have an enormous effect on actual phone usage for the people who signed up for it (other data is here and looks similar):
That doesn’t surprise me, but even changing people’s mind about whether it’s good to be bored is a worthy secondary goal.
Which brings me to my second point, namely, why don’t we let our kids get bored if we think it’s so great? I mean, I deliberately keep my kids virtually unscheduled outside of their school and homework. To be fair I mean the older kids, who are 12 and 14. The 6-year-old still goes to after school most days, although he comes home with his 12-year-old brother on Thursdays to do absolutely nothing. But that doesn’t seem to be the general practice of most other parents nowadays, including, I’d bet, quite a few of the participants in the “Bored and Brilliant” project. What gives?
After all, kids aren’t addicted to phones (yet), and they don’t have as many family responsibilities, and they do have plenty of reasons and avenues to be incredibly creative. My best moments of childhood – playing music, forming lifelong friendships, reading Dostoyevsky, and yes, experimenting with things – only happened because I was utterly without other grown-up plans.