December 5, 2023

It’s been a few weeks of summer and vacation, and the start of the school year still seems a long way off. It’s time to continue enjoying the beach or the mountains, outdoor activities, family and friends. Of the impromptu plans, of the ice creams at the end of the afternoon, of the water parks and of the trips. But the fact that children have so much free time means that they also have hours to get bored and that at home they don’t stop complaining because they don’t know what to do. Managing this time of neglect is not always easy for families and, on occasions, it causes parents to make comfortable decisions that distance them from good educational practice.

Parents often experience the fact that their children are bored as a personal failure. They are afraid that they feel sad, discouraged or have little interest in doing things. They try to keep them always distracted and thus give them few opportunities to think and decide for themselves.

Boredom is a very important emotion that is not usually allowed or cultivated. An essential feeling for personal development that is closely related to the ability to wait, personal autonomy, the development of imagination and talent, and tolerance for frustration. So experiencing it is very positive for the brain and emotions. An essential emotion to be able to connect with our interior, with emotions, misgivings or desires.

The time to do nothing is pedagogically essential. Teaching to tolerate boredom and not looking for constant fun prepares children and young people for a more realistic future, teaches them that in life they will also have to do things that they do not want or that they have to adapt to situations that they do not choose. When a child gets bored, he connects with her essence, which leads him to explore and create. Boredom triggers the imagination, gives the opportunity to find solutions for oneself.

Children and young people who learn to cope with neglect usually end up being more tolerant, patient, happy and have better self-knowledge and self-regulation. They are much more flexible and are able to better manage time.

On many occasions, listening to them constantly ask what their parents’ plans are for them or having to combine work with their care leads to abuse of the use of screens at home. An easy and comfortable alternative so that they can be entertained and not bother us.

Screens and boredom, an easy solution to combat it?

In this way, they connect them to the tablet, to the game console or they put on the television so that they are entertained and the adults get moments of tranquility. Or also to avoid fights between brothers. In an erroneous way, they break the rules that were established on their use, allowing mobile phones and digital devices to end up becoming the main refuge to escape boredom.

It is normal that during these summer weeks we can make their use more flexible, but adults must continue to be the ones who set the time and place where they can use them, in addition to controlling the content they consume.

The key is to find the right balance between usage time and the other activities they can do. There is no exact rule to calculate how long children should be allowed to use technology, since it will depend on the age of the child and the needs of each family.

A girl interacts with her tablet on the couch.
A girl interacts with her tablet on the couch. GETTY

What will be essential is that, as those responsible for their use, parents consider how, when and why children use technology at home. When used in a controlled, educational and safe way, it will not only be fun, but also an important source of learning.

If, on the contrary, it is misused and the content they consume is not appropriate for their age, parents will find themselves facing a serious problem that can interfere in a very negative way with the development and health of their children. Parental control applications – there are many on the market – can help ensure that they are used correctly.

What not to do?

  1. They should never use their use as a prize or as blackmail to get them to pay attention. Good behavior should not be negotiated and that is why it is important that in these summer months the rules and limits that were established during the school year can be reformulated.
  2. The moments of the day in which the use of the mobile phone, tablet or computer will not be allowed must also be marked. They will not use technologies during family meals and dinners, for example.
  3. In addition, it will be very important to offer them attractive alternatives so that they can use leisure time correctly, the more options or concerns they have, the less likely it is that they will resort to the screens. They can be encouraged to do manual activities with paints or plasticine, discover new readings, play board games or, whenever possible, participate in summer camps and sports or nature activities as a family.
  4. Parents should keep in mind that if during these weeks the children get used to playing video games for hours or looking at their mobile devices when the holidays are over and they have to return to the course routine, it will be very difficult to change it.

Bruce Lee said: “We all have time to seize or lose and it is our decision what we do with it.” But, once past, time does not recover. So it is essential that we are able to teach children to make the most of time without the need to be attached to a screen.

*Sonia López is a teacher, psychologist and educational disseminator. She is the mother of two teenagers.

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